Build a Biosecurity Culture

Dealing with the COVID-19 health crisis has been capturing everyone’s attention, but farmers have long known that following biosecurity measures on their farms is critical to help ensure the health of farm personnel and pigs, says Lisa Becton, DVM, director of swine health for the Pork Checkoff.

“Education and training are essential, but protocols must be executed properly and consistently,” Becton said. “That is what underscores producers’ commitment to the We CareSM ethical principles. To build a biosecurity culture, everyone on your farm must understand why certain procedures matter and the potential fallout if they aren’t followed.”
Here are some actions to consider:

Follow Biosecurity in Your Barns

  • Set up a bench-entry and shower system to clearly designate clean/dirty sides and to control the movement of people.
  • Provide instructions on proper showering, apparel removal, and storage. Offer personal hygiene products and thoroughly clean the areas at least weekly.
  • Assign separate coveralls and boots to each building or site. Color-coding the apparel adds quick recognition if someone is out of place.
  • Promote frequent, thorough hand-washing throughout the day, which means having hot water and soap accessible within barns. If using gloves, dispose of properly.
  • Keep tools for facility repairs and animal treatment within each barn to minimize the need to carry tools into facilities.
  • Establish protocols for bringing products, such as boar semen, service providers’ tools, and even lunches, onto the site. A double-bag or box system might suffice. Some units use UV-light scanners to “sterilize” packages.
  • Periodically drain water lines and run bleach or a disinfectant through them.
  • Replenish rodent-control baits.
  • Between pig groups, remove organic matter from barns and use soap/detergent to clean rooms, as well as equipment that remains in place.
  • Once dry, inspect the barns, checking cracks and crevices. If feed, hair or manure is found, re-cleaning is required. Use sidewalk chalk to mark spots to ensure that they aren’t missed.
  • Once a building is completely clean, disinfect and allow rooms to dry. For information on disinfectant options, go to cfsph.iastate.edu/Disinfection.
  • Maintain downtime as long as possible before reloading a barn.
  • Periodically clean offices, load-out, and storage areas.
  • Clean and disinfect equipment that is removed from barns but will be brought back in again. Discard cracked plastic panels, sort boards or paddles because they can harbor pathogens.
  • Inspect and clean chutes and load-outs. As needed, repaint or reline chutes to ensure the wood is clean.
  • Work with your veterinarian and breeding stock suppliers to bring in replacement animals. Establish the health status of the herd supplying the animals. Isolate replacements away from the production site. Test and ensure animals are healthy before moving them into the herd. Ensure boar semen tests negative before accepting it.

Take Control of Non-Farm Personnel

  • Whether it involves pigs, people or vehicles, control traffic to minimize the risk of introducing pathogens into your herd.
  • Instruct visitors about your biosecurity policies before they arrive at the site.
  • For anyone going from one farm to another, downtime requirements between farm visits will vary, but at minimum, require an overnight downtime period.
  • Ask that vehicles are washed and the interiors cleaned before arriving at your farm and suggest that visitors do the same once they leave.
  • Designate a parking space on a hard or gravel surface located away from animals.
  • Designate a visitor entrance to barns where everyone must sign in.
  • Have visitors follow your farm’s showering and barn clothing protocols.

Audit Your Biosecurity Program 

  • Conduct a biosecurity audit to help identify whether procedures are being followed and to shed light on what works, what doesn’t and what needs to change.
  • Meet with your veterinarian at least annually to review the health status of your herd, as well as within the surrounding area. Compare biosecurity measures in place.
  • Ask caretakers for suggestions for improvement.

“Every hog site should have biosecurity protocols in place,” Becton said. “But it’s even more important that they be implemented and monitored.”

Team Effort Navigates COVID-19 Challenge

Our nation’s food and agriculture sector is one of the nation’s 16 critical areas assigned by the U.S Department of Homeland Security during the national emergency related to COVID-19.

“The president asked America’s farmers and those in all parts of the food chain to continue to work as normally as possible to help ensure that our domestic food supply remains uninterrupted,” said National Pork Board President David Newman, a pork producer who represents Arkansas. “It’s no surprise that producers have stepped up to the task, reflecting an ingrained commitment to the We CareSM principles.”

In these unprecedented times, Newman reminds fellow producers that it’s also important to protect their health and that of their families and all farm personnel. “Adhering to practical on-farm procedures, such as those outlined in the enclosed barn poster, can help keep people and pigs healthy,” he said.

In these uncharted waters, Newman noted that consumers have been shopping, cooking and eating much differently. The Pork Checkoff is sharing preparation, versatility and nutrition information with consumers as they cook more meals at home.

“We have been communicating pork’s value, as consumers look to stretch their food dollars due to economic uncertainty or having kids home from schools to eat meals,” Newman said. “We’ve been able to use digital channels to get key messages to consumers. And on the retail side, the Pork Checkoff channel marketing team has worked with major grocery stores to help solve temporary supply-chain problems as needed. It’s truly been a team effort, targeting the farm gate to the dinner table.”

For the latest on COVID-19 and the pork industry’s response go to pork.org/covid-19.