When considering the successful producers in today's industry, Joseph Kerns with Partners for Production Agriculture says his top three methods to success are "1) having a lender that will hang with you 2) good production and 3) a pricing mechanism that has a cutout or basis component."
I would add one of the top components of good production is good health. This topic is consistently emphasized on sow farms with the addition of filters, supply entry rooms, specialized mortality rooms and well thought out programs for animals entering and exiting the farm.
While it is good to continue to improve on the sow farm side, grow-finish biosecurity can have a huge impact on the profitability of a farm.
Depending on market timing and value of pigs, the rough math is that for every additional 1% of mortality in the nursery, the producer will lose about $0.50 a pig, and in the finisher 1% of mortality costs about $1 per pig.
We spend countless hours planning how to flow pigs, creating health and nutritional programs to be the most successful producers. Most hog farmers know biosecurity is important but also know that it lacks on at least a few areas or sites within their system.
The simplest method to ensure biosecurity within grow-finish is always starting at clean sites and moving toward dirty sites, not only throughout the day but also throughout the week. Create a biosecurity pyramid to assist movements of people, supplies, trucks and pigs. Biosecurity pyramids have been most successful when they are simple to understand. Using only three to four levels with major diseases is key to the pyramid.
Also make sure every supervisor understands how to transition sites from one level to the next when there are health challenges. As studies have been done over the years, roughly 50% of grow-finish sites in pig-dense areas break with wild type porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome. This can be challenging because not all PRRS breaks show strong clinical signs, and the pyramid is created to not backtrack down to younger unprotected animals.
Finding a balance between disease status and age is key to success.
As you exit your vehicle and enter the site, break points are key. We know there are biosecurity risks everywhere such as stopping at the gas station on the way to work or crossing the driveway where birds that were at another site just landed. Clean-dirty lines or bench entry with or without a shower can help keep viruses out of the site. Shower in and out is the next best step, but not always achievable on older facilities. One good way to upgrade older sites is to request changes as contracts come up for renewal. It is a good way to get an on-site office and shower or a compost site.
The biggest difference between a nursery and finisher versus a sow farm on biosecurity is the accountability from others. Most of the time people are doing chores on their own, so training becomes even more important, so that everybody understands why we act like every virus is right outside the door at these sites.
Mortality removal is one of the highest risks for groups on feed. A majority of sites have one of the three mortality removal systems: rendering, composting or on-site incineration. Rendering is one of the highest risk points. To combat this, the best grow-finish sites remove deads at the end of the day. Showering out and having a special pair of coveralls and boots to go next to the rendering box is ideal. It is helpful for supervisors if the coveralls and boots are a different color than the chore coveralls, so you know each person is following the protocol.
With rendering costs moving up over the years, more and more producers are utilizing a central pickup spot. While this is cheaper for rendering, it can cause a lot of health issues if not handled correctly. Recommendations would be to set up a central pickup station where the rendering truck and mortality removal truck do not cross the same path. Ideally, the mortality removal truck has a lift bed where the person does not even have to get out of the cab of the truck.
Biosecurity in grow-finish is about making as many clean-dirty lines as possible when thinking of all aspects of production. Continue to improve sites one step at a time. Training employees and staff will continue to be one of the most effective ways at improving biosecurity.