As some parts of the Hog Belt begin to experience Spring-like weather, the upper Midwest may still be knee-deep in snow. Regardless, this time of year can sometimes catch producers off guard when it comes to stress on pig health. Having a plan of action, however, can keep your animals healthy and your farm’s productivity on track.

Weather fluctuations up risk

As the days get noticeably longer, some hog-dense areas of the country may see daytime highs reaching into the 60s or higher. Unfortunately, these may be followed quickly by lows in the teens or worse, leaving pigs and people are highly susceptible to disease challenges.

“This time of year when the weather is changeable can be especially hard on pigs and people,” says Lisa Becton, DVM, director of swine health and information with the Pork Checkoff. “Everyone wants to see only nice-weather conditions, but many regions of the country are not there yet. That means everyone needs to stay vigilant by monitoring herd health and enforcing biosecurity.”

According to Becton, producers can often see disease threats such as porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDV) and influenza in late winter along with perennial issues such as PRRS and Mycoplasma pneumonia. As many will remember from a few years ago, a disease such as PEDV, requires strict biosecurity, sanitation and the pathways taken by people, pigs and vehicles coming onto or off a farm.

Biosecurity is mandatory

Regardless of the season, Becton advises all producers to work with their herd veterinarian on a site-specific biosecurity plan, but the basics are always the same—keeping “dirty” and “clean” sides of a pig facility/location separate from one another.

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

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

As always, producers should keep herd vaccinations current and use historical herd health data to help them and their herd veterinarians prepare for the disease headaches that always come as the seasons begin to change.

Helpful biosecurity and disease resources

PEDV and Feed Biosecurity

PEDV and Transport Biosecurity

Line of Separation

PRRS Research

On-Farm Flu Surveillance