Pig/Swine Biosecurity Overview

There is a real risk of disease in a pig (swine, hog) herd. As a swine producer, whether you raise a small number of animals or you manage a commercial operation, you are aware of many of the common diseases that could potentially affect your animals. You probably also understand the importance of biosecurity. Years ago swine producers observed that diseases such as transmissible gastroenteritis (TGE) could be spread by contaminated vehicles and shoes, and they accordingly put preventive measures in place.

A disease may be present on a neighbor's farm or in another farm in your county or in another state, and your use of sound biosecurity measures may be the only way to prevent the disease from entering your premises.

Besides the concerns of diseases in other swine operations, different levels of susceptibility to diseases exist among the animals you have on your farm. Some diseases exist in one group of animals but not in others. Implementation of sound biosecurity procedures can reduce the chance of disease spread between these different groups (for example, from grower/finishers to nursery pigs) within the farm.

Even if you already practice some biosecurity measures, an overall farm biosecurity plan will allow you to set up a comprehensive program that will protect the health of your animals in the best way possible. You can't remove all risk from your operation. Your goal should be to put measures in place that will decrease your risk of disease to an acceptable level.

Remember that the diseases you intend to keep out of your premises can be spread in many different ways. Methods of disease transmission include these:

  • Directly between animals - this includes transmission during breeding, including via semen.
  • Fecal to oral transmission.
  • Fomite transmission by inanimate objects capable of carrying a disease agent from one animal to another, e.g. feeding equipment, boots, needles, scalpel blades.
  • Vector transmission in which a living thing (such as a mosquito) carries a disease agent.
  • Airborne transmission.

Swine producers in the U.S. have a special problem with overpopulation of feral swine in many areas. As these animals often carry brucellosis (with zoonotic disease concerns) and/or pseudorabies, preventing contact with feral swine is critical.

The swine industry has had its share of new diseases in recent years that have kept researchers busy understanding them with their multiple transmission routes and complex risk factors. This has made it difficult for producers to keep up with adequate biosecurity management practices. Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome (PRRS) and Porcine Circovirus Associated Diseases (PCVAD) are examples of these diseases.

Public health and animal health specialists have long been aware and concerned about the potential role of swine in the "mixing" of influenza genes to create new strains that could cause massive outbreaks of human disease. The recent events of RINI influenza virus, however, taught us the importance of using biosecurity procedures to protect swine from humans.

Because there is no way to tell if a disease is being carried by a visitor, animal, vehicle, or piece of equipment, biosecurity rules must apply to all of them, all the time. For instance, a new animal coming to your farm may be carrying a disease without showing clinical signs. If this animal is introduced into your herd without an initial quarantine period, the disease may infect your resident animals. Also remember that a few animals showing signs of disease may only be the "tip of the iceberg" with many others infected but still in the subclinical disease state and not yet wing signs.

Development of a biosecurity plan should involve all partners and employees. The plan should be in written form and should be reviewed and updated as needed. Two "partners" you may want to include are local emergency management and law enforcement personnel; make sure that these agencies are aware of your farm. Exchange contact information to be used in case of an emergency, and post the names and numbers of these emergency contacts for your staff.

For the plan to be effective, everyone must be able to understand it, use it, and enforce it. The plan should apply to everyone, every day, all the time. Steps should become like "clockwork" and should be visible to anyone observing the daily activities of the premises owner, herd manager and temporary employees alike. Employees will look to the owner and manager for consistency, so a "do as I say, not as I do" attitude will doom the plan.

To design your plan, first consider the ways that common diseases are spread. Include a standard health protocol which documents procedures necessary for maintaining animal health and husbandry, as well as specific methods to identify, separate, and treat sick animals.

Below is a list of biosecurity measures that are categorized under general topics. These are best management practices. The lists can be used to develop your own unique farm biosecurity plan.

Management Strategies

Pig/Swine Biosecurity Content Source
Choueke, Esmond. 2015. Agroterrorism Prevention Reference Guide (FBI). Boca Publications Group Inc. [email protected]

Pig/Swine Biosecurity Resources

Movement Risks and Biosecurity

Risks to consider when moving animals and supplies on and off the farm. From the Center for Food Security and Public Health.

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African Swine Fever

African swine fever (ASF) is a highly contagious and deadly viral disease affecting both domestic and wild pigs. It is not affecting the U.S. currently. Information from USDA APHIS.

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International Visitors

Cross-contamination can occur between travelers & animals, fresh animal products or animal excretions. Guidelines for organizers hosting international visitors.

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Organic Livestock Guide

Information about the certification process, including pig production. For producers wanting to convert, new to organic, Extension, educators. Helpful tool before certification.

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Guide to Swine Youth Exhibition

A healthy swine herd starts with raising healthy pigs at home. Biosecurity for youth and 4-H exhibiting swine at fairs and shows, from Pork Checkoff.

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List of Pig/Swine Diseases and Resources

Swine disease resources that includes technical facts and disease images, and African Swine Fever information from the Center for Food Security and Public Health.

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Pork Checkoff

The National Pork Board executes specific programs in the areas of promotion, research and education. The Pork Checkoff is a commodities program supported by the USDA Marketing Service.

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Alternative Pig Farm Biosecurity

A fact sheet with small farm biosecurity protocols for farms raising pigs in alternative housing systems, from the Pork Information Gateway.

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Secure Pork Supply

Continuity planning if foot and mouth disease occur in the United States. How to develop a secure pork supply plan for continuity of business in the event of a foot and mouth disease outbreak.

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