As fall approaches, it’s time to protect your operation against introduction of porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS). Most herds typically break from mid- October to December, says Paul Yeske, DVM, Swine Vet Center, St. Peter, MN, in a talk at the Leman Swine Conference held this week in St. Paul, MN.

To safeguard negative pigs from PRRS:

  • Understand your risks. The Production Animal Disease Risk Assessment Program (PADRAP) can provide a good biosecurity review for the farm in terms of internal and external risk factors. “The tool has proven effective in accurately predicting how long herds will survive without a PRRS break. Herds with lower risk scores had a lower incidence rate of PRRS,” Yeske says.
  • Know your neighbors. “You can do this by talking over your PRRS status and theirs so that you know what is going on in your neighborhood for sure in a two-mile radius and best in a five-mile radius. This is the best way to work as a group for control vs. the efforts of an individual. There may be positive herds next to yours but it is better to know. Also, if alternative pig flows are possible, then this can be done.” The Bio-Portal program is a simulation program supported by Boehringer Ingelheim VetMedica, Inc., and is a tool that provides multiple ways to track outbreaks and may help lead to better understanding of the disease and how it spreads.

  • Vaccinate negative pigs. Strongly consider vaccinating negative wean-to-finish pigs being introduced into pig-dense regions. “We are using the modified-live-virus vaccine to protect those pigs since there is a high likelihood that they will become infected; we are also doing this to reduce the level and time of viral shedding and replicating more virus into the area to try to break that disease chain of infecting more herds,” he says. Vaccinating pigs within the first few weeks after placement is best to allow for maximum immunity and prior to getting infection.
  • Reduce stress. Fall seasonal temperature changes can easily chill and stress pigs. Adjust ventilation systems to eliminate hot and cold spots in the barns, especially in tunnel-ventilated systems. Leave ceiling inlets closed and drop cool air out of the attic at night. Once cold weather comes, seal up the curtains and ventilate using the ceiling inlets. Make sure curtains are evened up so they seal well and tears and holes are repaired.
  • Maintain written biosecurity procedures. Plans should include charts that dictate the order in which farms can be visited, amount of downtime required, etc. Consider using the bench system that provides a dirty/clean demarcation for entrance into a production unit. Follow shower in and out protocols. Use a double bag or similar procedure to protect incoming supplies. Mortality compost systems eliminate rendering trucks.
  • Audit filtration systems. Find the holes in the system and get those corrected immediately. Repeat this process on a daily basis to ensure effectiveness.
  • Ensure transportation biosecurity. Review truck wash and drying bay protocols and use dedicated trailers to haul pigs at different stages of production.

  • Coordinate manure hauling. Work with your manure hauler to do your best to have equipment cleaned between farm sites. Talk to your neighbor to avoid hauling that may put yours or neighbor’s farm at risk of PRRS.

“We are trying to keep pigs negative downstream from the sow herds, reduce area spread of the virus and not allow for added stresses this time of year when PRRS spreads,” Yeske says.