Biosecurity on pig farms must always come first.
As a farmer who also raises pigs and has experienced various challenges, I can tell you that biosecurity is the first and most important way to protect animals from infections or diseases.
A sick pig can bring nothing but increased expenses to combat the disease and clean the rest of the farm if a biosecurity plan is not in place.
In order to secure their health and optimal growth, you need to have a biosecurity plan that minimizes the risk of bacteria, fungi, etc., entering or leaving the pig farm.
Below, I’ll explain in simple words what is this, what it involves, how to create your own plan, and other tips.
- What is biosecurity on pig farms?
- Types of Biosecurity on Pig Farms
- Why is biosecurity important for pigs?
- What are the biosecurity methods?
- How to Create a Biosecurity Plan for Pigs
- Biosecurity Plan for Small Farms/Homesteaders Raising Pigs
- Biosecurity for Pigs with Outdoor Access
- Biosecurity for Pigs with Indoor Access
What is biosecurity on pig farms?
Biosecurity on pig farms is a set of measures, actions, and practices established and implemented within the farm area to prevent the introduction and spread of various pathogens, including bacteria, fungi, and parasites that cause diseases.
It involves the application and adherence to rigorous protocols, procedures, and physical barriers with the main purpose of minimizing the risk of disease transmission within and between pigs.
Types of Biosecurity on Pig Farms
There are two types of biosecurity in the pig farming world: internal biosecurity and external biosecurity.
Let’s examine the definition of each biosecurity type for pigs.
1. External Biosecurity
This refers to measures and practices that are in place to prevent the entry of pathogens from external sources into the pig farm.
It typically includes controlling access within the farm, establishing quarantine protocols for new pigs, and restricting the movement of people, vehicles, and equipment.
2. Internal Biosecurity
This type of biosecurity refers to measures taken to prevent the spread of pathogens within the pig population of the farm.
It involves protocols for pig separation into different groups based on criteria such as age, different hygiene and sanitation practices, and reduction of disease through the use of controlled exposure and/or pig vaccination techniques.
What is the difference between internal and external biosecurity?
The difference between internal and external biosecurity lies in their main focus.
For instance, internal biosecurity focuses on preventing disease transmission within the pig population, while external biosecurity aims to prevent the introduction of diseases into the farm.
Another difference is the application of different protocols.
In Table 1, I prepared for you an overview of all the differences between these two types of biosecurity.
|Internal Biosecurity||External Biosecurity|
|Definition||Measures to prevent disease spread within the pig population on the farm||Measures to prevent the entry of pathogens from external sources into the farm|
|Focus||Preventing disease transmission within the pig population||Preventing the introduction of diseases into the farm areas|
|Objectives||Minimize disease spread among pigs within the farm||Minimize disease introduction from outside sources|
|Implementation||Protocols, pig grouping, hygiene practices||Access control, quarantine protocols, biocontainment measures|
|Importance||Prevents disease outbreaks within the farm||Prevents disease introduction to the farm|
Why is biosecurity important for pigs?
Biosecurity for pigs is important because:
- It minimizes the risk of introducing and spreading various diseases within the pig population of a farm.
- According to the study, healthy animals contribute to a good business. Therefore, it ensures business profitability by keeping mortality rates low, optimizing growth rates, and improving reproductive performance.
Also, effective biosecurity practices reduce the need for costly treatments, maintaining good financial stability of pig farming operations.
- It contributes to the overall welfare of all pigs on the farm, allowing them to lead a healthy life free from the sufferings of various diseases.
- It promotes environmentally friendly practices. By preventing disease transmission, pig farms can reduce the need for treatments, including antibiotic usage, which in turn reduces the risk of antimicrobial resistance. This contributes to a sustainable approach to pig farming.
What are the biosecurity methods?
The most common biosecurity methods that I recommend in pig farming are:
Physical barriers that control animals, people, and vehicles.
I also suggest familiarizing yourself with biosecurity principles and terms, such as:
- PBA or Perimeter buffer area: This is the protective barrier that clearly separates the farm or pigs from the external environment.
- LOS or line of separation: This is a barrier that separates different zones or areas based on the health status of the pigs. You can have a LOS between sick and healthy pigs or between different stages of production, such as nursery, grower, and finishing pigs.
- PBA Access Point: Each entry and exit serves as a PBA access point.
Good hygiene and sanitation practices.
I consider this one of the most important biosecurity methods, not only when raising pigs but livestock in general.
Vaccination of all pigs against specific diseases.
Implementing specific protocols for quarantine when introducing new or returning pigs.
Maintaining records of everything.
You might think that this is only for larger farms, but believe me when I say that it is incredibly important even for homesteaders.
It is crucial to maintain accurate records of vaccinations, and administered treatments for each pig.
Providing training to all farm personnel on biosecurity protocols.
How to Create a Biosecurity Plan for Pigs
For new pig farmers, the word ‘biosecurity’ can sound intimidating and complex. I remember feeling stressed and overwhelmed when I first started with this topic.
However, before you become as stressed and confused as I was, it is important to keep in mind that a biosecurity plan can differ depending on each specific situation.
Before creating one, I strongly recommend assessing your specific circumstances.
Here are some topics and questions that I suggest you describe or address:
- Understand your farm’s current infrastructure. For example, do the pigs share common areas with other types of animals? Does the pigs’ living area serve other purposes as well? Can you identify any weaknesses?
- Review your current day-to-day practices. You likely have established routines, such as how you feed the pigs, where and how you prepare their food, and what protective gear you wear. Consider these practices as they can be integrated into your biosecurity protocols without affecting your or the pigs’ routines excessively.
- Research and identify the potential dangers in your local area that be a risk to your pigs. I would primarily focus on pig diseases that exist in the region.
- Consider how you are raising your pigs. Do you raise them outdoors, indoors, or in both environments?
- Take into account the type of pigs you raise. If, like me, you raise various breeds, then identify if there are any differences between them or if each breed has specific requirements.
- Remember that the total number of pigs you raise is also a factor. Do you have 20 or 2000 pigs?
- Evaluate how many people handle the pigs, as this will impact the implementation of a record-keeping system.
Biosecurity Plan for Small Farms/Homesteaders Raising Pigs
For small farms or homesteaders, I recommend a simple biosecurity plan with easy rules.
Below, I provide you with my biosecurity plan that can be applied in small pig farms and even homesteads.
Clearly set up physical barriers on your farm.
Create dedicated areas for parking vehicles, loading pigs for slaughter, a nursery, a sturdy electric fence to prevent pig escapes, and a separate area for sick pigs.
You should also consider separating pigs based on age.
I personally separate the nursery from the other adult pigs so that my sow can raise her piglets in a quiet environment, minimizing additional stress and maintaining cleanliness.
If you have other individuals assisting you in taking care of the pigs, you can create a map of the farm illustrating its barriers. I have done this myself, and it has proven to be highly helpful in minimizing the risk of confusion among the team.
Consult with your veterinarian to establish a pig vaccination chart and always follow it for all pigs.
Clean vehicles and all equipment before introducing them into the pig farm or living area of the pigs.
Always use a designated set of clothing and boots. Anyone handling the pigs should have specific clothing and boots for entering the farm.
Install disinfectant or desiccant at all access points.
Clean clothing and boots thoroughly before entering the pig farm, as pathogens can be transported through clothes and footwear.
I suggest establishing a rule of working with the youngest pigs first and gradually moving to the oldest ones.
The youngest pigs are the most vulnerable, and following this approach minimizes the risk of them becoming sick.
If you have sick pigs, change clothes and footwear before visiting the healthy pigs. Additionally, use disinfectant or desiccant for footwear.
In the case of sick pigs, I recommend implementing a rule to take care of them last. Prioritize working with healthy pigs first, then attend to the sick ones.
Wash hands frequently when around pigs to maintain good hygiene.
Implement a pest control plan.
For example, in the summer, I dedicate time once a week to control pests and rodents in the pigs’ living area. In winter, I have more time and I conduct pest control twice a week.
Continuously monitor the water source for pigs. Regularly check the water system, including tanks and pipes, as water can carry diseases.
Clean the pigs’ living area daily, removing manure, dirty bedding, feed remnants, etc. After cleaning, disinfect the equipment used and footwear. Provide fresh bedding for the pigs.
The feed is stored in a manner that minimizes the risk of contamination. Store feed in bins or buildings with secure closures.
Develop a plan to monitor the pigs’ health.
For example, I check my Vietnamese Pot-bellied pigs once a week. I examine their overall health status, skin condition, and signs of skin diseases, mice, ticks, lice, and so on.
Every new pig goes through a 30-day quarantine period. After this period, if the pig is healthy, it can be introduced to the other pigs.
Any pig showing signs of illness must be separated from the others immediately.
Train all individuals who handle the pigs.
Maintain accurate and up-to-date records of pig health, vaccinations, and treatments.
Biosecurity for Pigs with Outdoor Access
The reason is that being raised outdoors exposes them to various factors that could trigger diseases more than pigs raised indoors.
For pigs with outdoor access, I recommend the same biosecurity measures I use for my pasture pigs:
Install a sturdy electric fence around the entire outdoor area.
This not only prevents the pigs from escaping but also minimizes the risk of diseases by avoiding contact with wild animals and unauthorized personnel.
Always control who enters the outdoor area.
If you have friends or visitors, ensure they follow biosecurity protocols by disinfecting their equipment, wearing appropriate clothing and footwear, and washing their hands thoroughly with soap for 30 to 40 seconds.
If you also raise pigs indoors, try to separate them to reduce the risk of disease transmission between different groups.
Implement a routine skin check for the pigs at least once a week.
Since they live outdoors, they are more exposed to lice, mice, and ticks. Detecting these skin issues early allows you to take immediate action and prevent the spread of diseases.
Establish a routine health check for the pigs to detect any signs of illness or disease early.
Regularly monitor and maintain cleanliness in their outdoor living area by promptly removing manure, waste materials, and dead animals.
Implement a cleaning and disinfection protocol to minimize the survival of pathogens. After cleaning, remember to disinfect the used equipment and footwear.
All other biosecurity measures related to water source management, record keeping, vaccinations, farm structure, feed storage, and training apply to pigs raised outdoors as well.
Biosecurity for Pigs with Indoor Access
All the other biosecurity measures and protocols mentioned above also apply to biosecurity for pigs raised indoors.
This includes implementing physical barriers, establishing quarantine protocols for new or returning pigs, managing water sources, maintaining a clean environment, disinfecting all equipment, clothing, and footwear, vaccinations, personnel training, and monitoring health.
What is special to pigs raised indoors is the biosecurity related to the ventilation system used in the indoor area.
A properly cleaned and maintained ventilation system helps ensure good air quality and reduces the risk of airborne disease transmission.
Here are some steps you can take:
- Regularly inspect the ventilation system for any signs of dust buildup, blockages, or other issues that could affect its performance. This inspection should be conducted at least once a year.
- Replace air filters in the ventilation system according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. This helps maintain optimal airflow and filtration efficiency.
- Clean other components of the ventilation system, such as fans, ductwork, and louvers. You can use methods like vacuuming, brushing, or air blowing. Just be cautious not to disperse dust and potentially spread pathogens.
- Disinfect the components after cleaning them. Pay particular attention to high-touch surfaces and areas prone to pathogen accumulation.
- I recommend you keep a record of the cleaning and maintenance activities performed on the ventilation system.