June 10, 2020

Effective biosecurity is a ‘must-do’

Mark Hawe, CAFRE Pig Development Adviser

Pig producers are well aware of the benefits of strict biosecurity and how effective it is in controlling disease.  Indeed, the vast majority have attended a training course on biosecurity delivered through the Family Farm Key Skills Programme.  Yet appreciating the benefits of strict biosecurity and implementing this effectively are two different things!

The ongoing Coronavirus pandemic has forced all of us to change our daily routines to minimise the spread of infection.  As the basis of controlling viral and bacterial infections is broadly the same, we can now appreciate how to introduce biosecurity measures in practice.

Pig units should be in constant ‘lockdown’.  Only essential workers should be allowed access with proper hygiene precautions taken before entry.  A secure perimeter fence with only one entry point to the unit is ideal to control access.  It is inevitable that other visitors such as contractors, electricians and inspectors will have to come onto the unit, so proper facilities must be available to ensure strict hygiene measures can be implemented.  Providing clean boiler suits and wellingtons is a minimum requirement.  Showering before entry and a change of clothes is not just something for the larger units!

Strict hygiene is paramount and the lessons learnt recently about effective hand washing also apply when working with pigs.  Similarly, wearing gloves when handling piglets and changing these between litters is essential, as is changing needles when injecting different litters.  The cost of extra gloves and needles is only a fraction of the cost of a potential disease outbreak.

If the unit is large enough then dedicated staff should remain in one section, such as the farrowing or first stage houses and have minimal contact with other staff members and stages of pig.  Using different coloured boiler suits and wellingtons for each section is a simple way to remind and enforce this ‘isolation and distancing’.  Of course, all work clothes should be washed regularly and having proper washing facilities will encourage this.

Pig units must be in constant ‘lockdown’ and operate effective biosecurity with strict hygiene precautions.

Pig units must be in constant ‘lockdown’ and operate effective biosecurity with strict hygiene precautions.

Bringing equipment and materials onto the unit is a disease ‘weak point’.  Providing a small hut outside the perimeter, will allow deliveries to be left at one point.  These can then be washed before being brought onto the unit.  Also, having feed bins at the perimeter and providing blow pipes rather than using the one on the lorry will reduce the risk of introducing disease.

Pig farmers definitely understand the benefits of all-in/all-out systems and washing pig houses between batches.  However, do common areas get the same attention?  Often farrowing houses and flat decks are thoroughly washed but the corridor between them might not achieve a number 5 on the hygiene rating scale!  It is also important to use an effective disinfectant at the correct concentration.  Dilution rates can be confusing to work out, so ask your supplier or adviser for help.  Similarly, items which are handled often by staff such as brushes, medicine trays and even handles on doors and fridges, should be cleaned regularly.

Where appropriate, sick pigs must be moved to hospital pens. As these animals are a real source of potential infection, extra precautions need to be taken.  Practice strict isolation and after tending to these animals, never move from the hospital pens back into other pig housing without showering and changing clothes first – this is only asking for trouble.

Before the Coronavirus pandemic, these measures may have seemed excessive. However, we all now realise that if similar measures can be implemented in our homes, they can also be implemented on our farms.  ‘Must do is a great master’ and with African Swine Fever still being a very real and major threat to our pig industry, along with other pig viruses YOU MUST do everything you can to control the spread of disease.   Effective biosecurity does make a difference!

For more information on pig biosecurity, please email address support@cafre.ac.uk or contact your CAFRE pig development advisers, Mark Hawe (07775 790411) or Liz Donnelly (07775 760159).

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