When auditing a farm for biosecurity issues, it's easy to see that pigs, people and location have the most impact on the level of risk.
If the farm is already in production, its location is set. But if you are considering a new facility, assessing locations is very important. Survey the surrounding area, drive the roads and check the site from the air in a small plane to better screen the whole area for risk. Record the exact location, topography, type and size of area pig operations on a plat map.
Disease Risk Management
Farm assessment is crucial because activities on-site have great impact on animal health.
A scoring program can be used to evaluate a farm or site. Examine the loading areas, farm entry point, staff activities, manure disposal system and pest control practices.
For walkways or loading chutes, bays or docks, the risk is in the level of contamination that occurs. For outdoor units, access of these areas by birds, other livestock, pets and people allow contact with the animals at the farm. Unwashed trucks hauling slaughter pigs can cause contamination, especially if pigs leave the truck and re-enter the loading area or buildings. Clean and disinfect confined loading chutes after each use.
The main entry point to the farm or buildings should be controlled. Doors should be locked and only employees or approved visitors allowed in. If the farm has shower facilities, employees and visitors should go into the farm only after taking a shower and putting on the farm's clothes and boots.
While there has been much debate about “downtime,” the practical approach is to keep visible material from being transferred between farms by using appropriate footwear and control of people traffic. Service people should also have “clean” clothes and boots and their equipment should be free of material from other pig farms.
Farms with outside pig lots can control visitors by blocking the driveway.
Control health risks of live animal introductions by using proper isolation facilities and testing procedures. Your health advisor should be in regular contact with the genetic supplier to design an action plan.
The isolation unit should be apart from the rest of the production system to prevent incoming animals from having direct contact with the herd. It should include a containment area for new animals that develop disease signs.
Separate boots and clothing should be assigned to the isolation area. Shower facilities should be kept clean and available for use.
Farm personnel required to take care of the animals in isolation should do so at the end of the day, or use care to prevent material from coming back into the herd.
Case Study No. 1
A single-site, farrow-to-finish producer normally hauls his own pigs to slaughter. In the middle of winter, he couldn't get the flat tire on his livestock trailer repaired and called a local hauler to take a load to slaughter.
This hauler's truck wasn't clean and the producer's loading chute didn't stop pigs from coming back off the truck and reentering the sorting area.
Two days after selling the pigs, classical transmissible gastroenteritis broke out in the finisher and spread to the whole herd. Several hundred pigs were lost, performance was reduced in the rest of the production system and sows were too sick to breed as a result of this single compromise.
The necessity for using clean trucks is real. And the importance of having “one-way” doors out of a finisher can prevent animals from coming back into the building.
Case Study No. 2
A producer reluctantly used an off-site building to isolate incoming gilts. The extra cost of the facility and the time to care for the animals was causing the producer to question its necessity.
A set of gilts arrived that tested positive for pseudorabies. The source herd had tested negative, but the gilts had become infected in between monthly tests.
The producer sold the new gilts immediately and restocked from another source.
Because of isolation and testing, a major catastrophe was avoided.
The producer continues to use this isolation facility. Now he realizes the cost of prevention is far less than herd exposure or infection.
Auditing all aspects of a farm will reveal where health issues can potentially compromise herd health. In most cases, the local veterinarian or the farm's veterinary consultant can evaluate the risk. The health of your herd could be at risk if you delay. Contact your veterinary advisor to have a biosecurity audit done as soon as possible.