After the depopulation-repopulation of his sow herd in 2003, Iowa pork producer Robert Dircks was among the naysayers who didn’t see how segregating where employees worked in his 1,000-sow, farrow-to-finish operation made much sense.

“I didn’t like it that I couldn’t just walk into the west barn of the finisher site anytime I wanted to, because I loved to just show up!” he says.

Declares manager Douglas Hoff­man: “We had to teach everybody and ourselves that everybody was at risk. That was one of the biggest changes in this operation — that we just didn’t come to work; we had to come to work with a purpose and an understanding of where we’ve always been so we didn’t bring something into the herd.”

Biosecurity changes included:

  • The sow farm was closed to traffic or visitors and restricted to visiting the office with approval.
  • Facilities became shower-in, shower-out.
  • For every group of incoming gilts, half the group gets blood tested twice for porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS).
  • Constant vet-to-vet communication updates the disease status of the gilt source.
  • Maintenance workers coming into the farm use farm tools only and must have been away from other pigs for at least 48 hours.
  • All products coming into units are sprayed with Synergize disinfectant (Preserve International).
  • Vendors are limited and must meet farm staff at an off-site office.
  • All feed is grown and mixed for sows by farm staff, and trucks are dedicated “for feed use only.”
  • Rodent bait stations at the sow farm get high priority and are monitored every three weeks by staff.
  • All pig trailers are washed and disinfected between loads.
  • Cull sows are loaded off-site.
  • A steel in-vessel composter called the BIOvator (Nioex Systems, Inc.) is used to naturally compost pig mortalities.

Manure is all custom-hauled from Dircks Farms. “We used to let commercial haulers use their own pumps, but now we use our pumps and just hook their hoses up to the pump-out port,” Dircks says.