Using biosecurity to keep pigs healthy

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, but it’s the diseases that we don’t yet know about or face that raise the stakes.

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. Today, the biosecurity discussion needs to expand to include biocontainment and bioexclusion:

  • Bioexclusion – Preventing the introduction of disease pathogens into a herd, site or country from an outside source.
  • Biocontainment – Preventing a pathogen from escaping one herd or site and spreading to expose another herd or site. It is about limiting the number of farms infected by a disease.

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. It’s also important to determine the epidemiology of the disease and how it got to your farm.

The importance of record-keeping

Maintaining detailed animal identification and medication records plays a crucial role in tracking medicated animals.

There are several reasons related to food safety for keeping records of all medications given to food-producing animals. The primary reason is to make sure withdrawal times have elapsed before marketing. Keeping and maintaining records is also a basic expectation of regulatory officials. Medication records provide documentation that demonstrates a drug was used properly. In instances where a violative residue found at harvest has been traced to a farm, the producer will be expected to provide complete medication records to the investigator.

Medication records as a management tool

Medication records can also be useful as a management tool when formulating disease-control strategies. Important management questions to consider when reviewing medication records include:

Periodic review of the medication records and the pig’s response to treatment can be discussed with a veterinarian as part of the VCPR and herd health plan. If changes in herd health are noted, a veterinarian can work with the producer to determine if additional investigation and potential health changes need to be made.

Medication records as a standard operating procedure

The FDA expects to see records as part of the operations standard operating procedure for using animal-health products. The FDA expects producers to maintain medication records that include:

  • The identification of the animal(s) that were treated
  • The date(s) of treatment, including last date of administration
  • The drug(s) administered
  • The route of adminstration
  • The person who administered each drug
  • The amount of each drug administered
  • The withdrawal time prior to harvest