Vet’s View Pigs
BIOSECURITY IS defined as procedures or measures designed to protect the population against harmful biological or biochemical substances. When it comes to livestock, and pigs in particular, these procedures are to prevent ingress of infectious diseases, such as viruses, and non-infectious disease, such as listeria. The prevention of disease is always my main goal when it comes to biosecurity, but it also includes reducing the spread of disease within the farm and pig herd. After all, healthy animals have improved welfare and are more productive.
Biosecurity of pigs at the farm level is taken extremely seriously, with some high-health units requiring visitors to undress, shower and put on clothes which never leave the premises before you even set foot on the farm.
The goal of a biosecurity programme is to maintain the health and productivity of pigs in a practical, costeffective way. Numerous factors contribute to the implementation of a plan. These factors can be thought of as links in a chain. A biosecurity programme is only as strong as its weakest link. Every smallholding with pigs is unique and therefore any biosecurity plan should be bespoke. It will take into account the individual needs and practicalities of the farm.
If your pigs are being produced for food and sold in a more commercial setting, often a biosecurity plan is an essential part of many on-farm food safety programmes.
Disease control is one of the most challenging areas for pig-keepers. The best aim is for minimal clinical disease status throughout the herd.
The main situations with the highest biosecurity risks for disease introduction are:
• Adding new pigs to the herd.
• Taking pigs to shows and bringing them back to the holding.
• Visitors, especially those with pigs of their own.
• Inanimate external objects, such as trailers and equipment.
So how do we minimise these risks?
When adding new pigs to the herd:
• Quarantine new arrivals for a minimum of 30 days. This will allow clinical signs of any disease to appear. Quarantine means good protocols; visit the existing herd first on your daily rounds and have different wellies and overalls for dealing with the new arrivals. • Obtain the health status of any animals you purchase. Ensure that they are the same or better than yours. This can be done by asking their vet to speak to yours, or by requesting certain tests. • Vaccinate for specific diseases.
Obviously shows are a disease risk with pigs from lots of different holdings congregating in one area, so when the show circuit returns:
• Ensure that vaccinations are up to date.
• When returning from shows, isolate your pigs for at least 30 days.
Ideally separate the show animals for the entirety of the show season. • Visitors bring a welcome opportunity to show off your hard work, but care needs to be taken. Use disinfectant foot dips or, even better, provide wellies and overalls to protect your pigs. • Request that visitors haven’t visited pigs on the same day or, even better, for the previous 24 hours.
Wildlife can pose a risk of disease transference, particularly if your local fauna consists of wild boar.
While keeping wildlife at bay can be tricky in the outdoor environment, risks can be mitigated against. Cover feed or keep it in bins to discourage rodents and birds, both of which can carry diseases.
Don’t offer excess feed so that there is food left in troughs or on the floor.
Sharing equipment is a great way to keep cost down, but it’s also a risk in terms of disease transmission. Thorough cleaning and disinfection are required between holdings. Allow sufficient time for any equipment to dry before using — the more fallow time the better.
These protocols are also relevant to disease restrictions in the face of an outbreak. Sick animals should be isolated and visited after the rest of the herd. Separate wellies and clothing should be worn, and any equipment used should be disinfected.
While the dangers of disease entering and spreading through the herd cannot be eliminated entirely, taking these fundamental and practical steps should go some way towards mitigating the risks.
The goal of a biosecurity programme is to maintain the health and productivity of pigs in a practical, cost-effective way