Biosecurity beyond the farm gate is part of a Minnesota boar stud's herd health program.

Even before porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS) became a concern, Pork Storks was requesting feedmill audits as part of its overall biosecurity program. The stud, managed by the Swine Vet Center near St. Peter, MN, has facilities in Worthington, MN, and Sleepy Eye, MN.

Staff veterinarian Jerry Torrison conducts the feedmill biosecurity audits for the boar units. Armed with flashlight and checklist, he canvasses a feedmill searching for rodent droppings, poor storage methods, trucking mistakes and any other breach of standard operating procedures.

“We evaluate potential risks posed by ingredients that come into the mill,” explains Torrison. “We look at the delivery process, procedures within the mill, including pest control and overall biosecurity.”

A boar stud makes frequent deliveries to many farms, so in terms of biosecurity, health problems could have wide-reaching consequences, he says.

Pork Stork's feed source is a mill that services primarily dairy farmers, since cattle present less disease risk to hog farms.

Schematic Aids Audit Process

Torrison follows a set schematic of inputs and outputs during the audit (Figure 1). Primary and secondary inputs, such as feed ingredients, receiving, delivery and pest control are examined. Bulk and bagged feed, people traffic and even garbage are examples of primary and secondary outputs.

To get an idea of the inspection process, notes from Pork Storks' last audit reveal the following recommendations for improving mill biosecurity:

  • Request quality control information from protein suppliers on programs for controlling microbial contamination;

  • Establish standard operating procedures for flushing lines after running protein products;

  • Take delivery of feed on Mondays using trucks that haven't been used to deliver to other hog units;

  • Take deliveries of bulk feed first thing Monday mornings to minimize the risk of cross-contamination by foot traffic;

  • Institute a “no return” policy since returned (retail) products from hog farms are considered a major risk.

  • Develop standard operating procedures for flushing lines prior to making feed order.



Upstream Risk Control

Breeding stock companies have been proactive in feedmill audits; in fact, Torrison learned the process while working for PIC.

“We were developing on-farm Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) programs, so we went upstream to suppliers to understand the processes they had in place for risk management and quality control,” he recalls.

HACCP focuses on human food safety and the steps to ensure a product has no ill effects in the food chain, explains Mike Stott, compliance and formulation manager for Hubbard Feeds. The Mankato, MN-based company earned HACCP quality certification last March and is also ISO 9001 certified, the first major feed company in the U.S. to achieve both standards.

Torrison says the feedmill audits offer the first few steps of a HACCP program in risk identification and mitigation.

“Our pork producers have contacted suppliers, for example, and inquired as to their program for salmonella monitoring in soybean meal. From producer to packer to retailer, the industry is becoming much more relationship driven. Suppliers are looking upstream to make sure their vendors have their ducks in a row,” he points out.

At times, mills fail the audit test. In one case, a mill's location was too close to pigs. Truck washes were located on site and pigs were allowed to be weighed on the mill scale — a bad idea, says Torrison.

Only a small percentage of clients are requesting the audit, but the trend is there, Torrison believes.

Stott seconds that opinion. “Anytime you can validate your quality system by a third party, that adds much more support to overall food safety,” he says.

At this point, boar studs and gilt multiplier farms are the most willing to spend more on biosecurity components, explains Torrison. Commercial production units and sow farms have started to request feedmill audits, he adds. The cost ranges from $500 to $750.

“This is on our agenda,” states Torrison. “It's part of an overall biosecurity scheme for production systems. Part of it is doing a better job with food safety issues, but audits are primarily driven by disease risk to farms. It's what we need to be doing.”