Keeping the transport-monitoring program simple and practical, yet comprehensive, makes biosecurity principles more workable.
When Ron White, DVM, went to work as the director of Health and Biosecurity for Iowa Select Farms, based in Iowa Falls, IA, he was asked to edit and update a detailed book on standard operating procedures (SOPs) for transport biosecurity. Reluctant to set hard and fast rules, he opted instead to draft a set of guidelines he considers more practical.
“The problem is farms have books on biosecurity that are gathering dust because they don't get used,” says White, who now works as a senior veterinarian for Pfizer Animal Health.
What's needed are clear, definable goals on acceptable levels for cleaning, disinfecting and drying trucks and trailers, communicated in English and Spanish, and demonstrated to staffs, White says.
The goals and SOPs should be posted where they can be seen and reviewed with staff to ensure they know what is expected of them. Then it is important to find out if those expectations are being met, he adds.
White offered the following key points from his program during the Transportation Biosecurity Summit held recently in Kansas City:
Diagram your biosecurity programs. Hopefully, you will make mistakes on paper before you build or retrofit them into your operation.
List all areas inspected and scored. Include everything that comes in contact with the pigs. For truckers, that means closely inspecting their cabs, underneath seats and in storage compartments. White has dug up scores of probes, hot shots, shakers and all kinds of items that had been in contact with pigs but hadn't been disinfected or discarded.
Check all supplies going in and out of the farm. “Are you using a common maintenance staff throughout farm sites?” he asks.
Define where the clean-dirty line is in the operation. Design people and traffic flows, including location of runoff water, to protect the integrity of that line. Post signs in areas that must not be breached.
Know what fails. If a truck fails wash requirements, make sure the entire truck gets rewashed. Make people accountable for mishaps by ensuring wash staff and truck drivers both review and sign off on cleaning procedures.
Don't tolerate even mild deviation away from your protocol. “Make sure staff understand that when you write the protocol, and they read it, that they know the level of expectation you have. It is amazing the level of variation that is out there when it comes to clean, dry and disinfection procedures,” he says.
Explain the consequences of biosecurity mistakes. Include the big one — when a truck shows up dirty at the farm. “They've got to know what is going to happen to them if they break biosecurity principles,” White stresses.
Explain the economic consequences to your operation when disease introduction occurs. Offer examples of the amount of money, time and production that are lost.
Define the personal consequences of not meeting the proper level of cleanliness. Suspension, pay cuts or termination of employment are possibilities.
Tell staff it is okay to inform managers when a biosecurity leak has occurred to prevent reoccurrence.
Vary spot inspections of transportation vehicles. “It doesn't take the wash crew long to know whether they should be concerned about inspections if you get into the habit of showing up at a particular time,” White points out. “Vary the time and the day. You cannot be predictable when you are going to show up, or I will guarantee you the trucks that are done an hour or two before you arrive will be the cleanest and most spotless trucks you ever saw — and there will be a large variation in the quality of the washes before and after that.”
Make it clear to staff where washing improvements are needed. Again, explain the importance of the job when areas fail inspection.
Realize it is impossible to over-inspect. And it is nearly impossible to explain the importance of “acceptable clean.” White uses bacterial plates to test for pathogen levels. Swabs in test tubes are used to monitor difficult-to-dry areas in trailer compartments. “When we evaluated the level of dry in a production system, we used the swab test at the right rear corner. It is said you can always get live virus out of that corner because it is the last place to dry on a trailer,” he says.
Design workable documentation and tracking systems to determine audit and inspection procedures.
Don't forget to heap praise on workers for a job well done. “When is the last time somebody in management told your wash crew that they did a good job? Think about that. They are some of the lowest-paid people and they have a job that nobody wants to do, so take the time to tell them when they do a good job,” he reminds.