Keeping pigs healthy and growing is priority No. 1 on hog farms, with biosecurity arguably playing the most critical part in good swine health management. Pig farmers have made tremendous progress in identifying effective biosecurity practices and in better understanding disease pathogens, but biosecurity remains an area of continuous learning.

“Swine diseases that we know about challenge biosecurity protocols every day,” said Lisa Becton, DVM, director of swine health information and research for the Pork Checkoff. “But it’s the diseases that we don’t yet know about or face that raise the stakes.”

biosecurity signEmerging diseases, such as porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDV) and Seneca Valley virus, have provided valuable lessons. Not only have they tested the limits of tried-and-true biosecurity protocols, but they also have challenged the need to find new or additional ones.

“With recent federal rule changes for on-farm antibiotic use, biosecurity and other animal-health protocols are growing in importance,” Becton said. “Today, the biosecurity discussion needs to expand to include biocontainment and bioexclusion.”

She added, “Biocontainment would be especially important in relation to a market-limiting disease, such as foot-and-mouth disease. Put another way, biocontainment is about protecting the health of the broader industry.”

Effective biocontainment requires a few specific steps, such as contacting your veterinarian immediately if you see something new or different within your herd.

“An early diagnosis offers the best chance to minimize disease spread,” Becton noted. “It’s also important to determine the epidemiology of the disease and how it got to your farm.”

Draw a Strict Line of Separation

“If you don’t have a ‘line of separation’ on your farm and maintain it, you don’t have biosecurity,” Becton said. “In fact, you may need to set up several lines within a site, because biosecurity is not just about exposure from the outside, but also the lateral spread of disease.”

At its most basic, a line of separation designates the outside (contaminated) area and the inside (clean) area. Think in terms of drawing a line in the sand – a point at which certain parties must not cross.

For example, identify a line where the animal transporter is not to cross and where farm or market personnel are to remain. If a barn worker does cross it, they cannot return to the clean side. The separation line must be clearly marked, with individuals made aware of where it exists in every situation.

Lines of separation for transporters might be at the cab of a truck, the back of a trailer or a loading chute. Within a production site, the shower or bench entry would be the ‘dirty’ side, while the shower exit would represent the clean line. Another line could be a designated driveway that feed trucks must use to control traffic flow and potential exposure.

The take-home message? Approach every contact with a site or market as if it could contaminate a truck, trailer or herd. The one time you don’t follow biosecurity rules could be the time when your herd will get sick.