The British are learning many lessons from our devastating foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) outbreak. Investigative inquiries are now in progress in the United Kingdom.

Britain has been completely open for business for some time, although internally, we livestock people are still picking up the pieces and trying to get back to normal.

One major lesson we have learned is how easily and rapidly vehicles transmitted the FMD virus. This particular virus has gone, but surely pathogens remain. A much stricter control of vehicular access to livestock farms must be a priority, not only for us, but for all pig industries worldwide.

Biosecurity Worth The Cost

I do not know what our investigations will recommend in this area — but I can hazard a good guess. New measures are not going to be easy to implement. There will be a cost. But look what disease is costing all of us at the moment. The extra expense of new biosecurity protocols will be a fraction of that. New protocols I see include:

  • Livestock farms must adopt a “perimeter mindset.” Separate unloading facilities for pig feed and general goods on the farm boundary should be the norm.

  • Pig collection and delivery trucks should not be accepted without a certificate of sanitation issued by the buying organization/vendor and signed by their qualified and properly supervised biosecurity clearance officer (BSO). This will be a new and vital appointment for most people.

  • All packers, slaughterhouses, feed mills and commercial pig breeding houses are to install, by law, approved tunnel-type vehicle disinfection bays where the undersides and wheel arches are sanitized, and mandatory records kept by the BSO for public health department inspection.

  • Should multi-deliveries be unavoidable (as for minor suppliers), the farmer is to provide a covered, off-road point on the farm boundary where the driver can use a cell phone to alert the recipient to come out and sign the docket.

  • No driver should be allowed to help with loading/unloading pigs.

  • No drivers should be allowed, by law, to keep pigs themselves.

  • All vehicles must be prevented from entering a livestock area — including those used by salesmen or even the veterinarian. If needed, a biosecure area is provided with separate access to a hardstanding with cleaning facilities.

  • Farm pig-loading bays are essential with wash-down facilities and drainage off the site. Recent findings have revealed that pig loading and movement is a much more dangerous vector of disease than previously thought. This is because many pig farms have just developed piecemeal over the years and have not been planned to avoid crossovers in pig movement. Younger pigs and sows often move across outside areas that are rarely, if ever, sanitized. After FMD, the practice of moving weaners in feed barrows (carts) is definitely ruled out. This practice is known to have spread Postweaning Multisystemic Wasting Syndrome (PMWS).

  • Wheel dips to and from the farm must be mandatory and adequate, using automatic or manual topside and underside spraying devices. Two automatic devices are available from $1,500 to $2,650. The first, for autos, uses a 4×4-yard disinfectant-soaked fiber mat placed in a shallow trench (Virkon-S disinfectant, Farnam Livestock Products, has come out tops and is now recommended in Britain), topped up at timed intervals by a 12-volt, battery-operated pump. There is also a “road system” that starts and stops automatically as a vehicle crosses the trench, spraying the inside and outside of the wheels. For disinfecting bigger vehicles, a larger and thicker 4×6-yard matted area takes 50 seconds to completely cover a 40-ton truck above and below with 40 liters (10.5 gal.) of correctly diluted disinfectant.

  • Dead animals must be incinerated on-farm. Under public health license, they can only be left for collection at an off-site venue suitably protected from exposure and degradation, with the site disinfected after collection.

  • Clear signs are to be placed at farm perimeter entrance and exits. Suppliers must be provided with specific, written instructions on the biosecurity measures farmers expect them to follow.

  • Farmers must be encouraged to use disinfection dilution check-strips now available from the better manufacturers.

  • Farms are to use their own feed delivery hoses unless the bulk bins are accessible outside the perimeter.

Some list, isn't it? This is a protocol for the 21st century. FMD has taught us Brits that where disease ingress onto farms was concerned, we were living in the 19th century! Think about it on your farm — are you sure you aren't living in the past, too?

We have to tighten this particular belt by the 13 or so notches outlined above.