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For biosecurity, 'boaring' can be good

National Pork Board no shower no entry.jpg
Good biosecurity isn't only practiced inside the barn, but on boar studs specifically it often begins miles away in terms of controlling cross contamination.

Year after year, boar studs typically have the lowest disease outbreak levels of any type of farm we manage. As such, they are a great point of reference when looking at the best ways to improve biosecurity on other types of swine farms. In fact, this observation has been studied and found to be true.

Top tips to consider
In a research paper authored by Darwin Reicks, he points to several key areas that form the foundation of good biosecurity that have proven to keep out infectious disease such as porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome and porcine epidemic diarrhea. Let's review some of the top ones and see what you should consider to improve your farm's biosecurity.

When looking back specifically at PRRS over the years, it becomes clear that air filtration can provide the extra layer of protection needed to keep aerosol-based pathogens below a threshold where they cause disease. While installing air filtration may not always be feasible in instances on a commercial farm, the results clearly show how the right equipment can make a difference in keeping disease out. Today's boar studs have proven this as they almost never suffer from PRRS thanks to filtration as part of their comprehensive biosecurity plan.

More recently, the PEDv experience that many of us recall from a few years ago set a lot of new research in motion that is helping us to re-evaluate what everyday biosecurity looks like. One of these areas is feed ingredients. While not given a lot of attention before a coronavirus such as PEDv, it's something to certainly consider by knowing where every part of your farm's nutrition comes from. It's all about knowing the origin of the ingredients and their pathway to your farm. Was there adequate tracking along the way and was any needed downtime observed?

Be sure to focus on all entry and exit points. Sometimes it's the non–primary entry points where I see mistakes made on commercial farms that boar studs would not make. Most farms today have windows or counter entries to the "inside office" area of a facility where common items such as office supplies, lunch bags, beverages and so on are passed through without proper decontamination. 

Just like shoes or boots, personal items and packaging can carry pathogens and disease into the clean side of a facility that's then able to reach production areas. These items should go through a UV chamber or fogging as is practical. Neither one is 100% foolproof, but it's certainly another barrier of protection that should be maintained.

The same goes for farm supplies, vaccines, artificial insemination rods, etc. Reick's research recommends that supplies coming into a farm be quarantined at 68 degrees Fahrenheit for 48 hours to help ensure any pathogens will not survive as they tend to like cool, moist conditions. 

Another super important point for biosecurity is careful handling of food and personal supplies entering a farm. While boar studs may very well provide employee food onsite (including no pork products as they may harbor African swine fever, PRRS, etc.), commercial producers can take steps to reduce possible disease entry this way.

Another issue I've seen is where workers place their lunch or other personal item in the disinfecting area but on top of someone else's items. What they may not know is that the parts of the items touching probably won't get disinfected, and contaminants manage to sneak through. This is partially prevented on studs as they won't allow jewelry, cell phones, papers or other unnecessary items into the unit.

While not specific to boar studs, clean-dirty lines are super-charged on these operations. They closely adhere to all line-of-separation protocols that you are likely familiar with, but enforce them with a zero-tolerance policy that you may not be following everyday as they simply won't tolerate added risk of pathogen introduction – and neither should you. 

The bench system is typically employed at the stud, but strict shower-in/shower-out procedure is enforced. This includes full sanitizing of hands at the bench entry and ongoing and thorough cleaning and disinfection of the shower facilities themselves to ensure that no biofilm can form that may harbor bacteria.

Good biosecurity isn't only practiced inside the barn, but on boar studs specifically it often begins miles away in terms of controlling cross contamination from vehicles, personnel and supplies. 

A good way to help prevent cross contamination is knowing what delivery is happening when and what the vehicle's origin was before entering your farm. Are the delivery vehicles routinely washed and disinfected? This can be especially critical for trucks hauling feed as more is being known each day about how feed ingredients can be a vector of contamination. Research has shown that simply using a Swiffer to take a feed dust sample from a new feed delivery can yield reliable lab results for the presence of a coronavirus.

In my experience, I see producers with great on-farm biosecurity plans and intentions, who feel good about their protocols. However, over time, new employees or visitors who may not have been given the proper training or rationale on biosecurity importance to a pig farm's daily operation and long-term success, can have unintended consequences – and on a place such as boar stud, this is simply not an option for the success of the business. I hope this quick look at what today's boar studs consider just standard biosecurity will help you consider how you can boost your farm's biosecurity this year.

Some additional resources to consider
Finally, I recently came across some new biosecurity resources. Coming from the University of Illinois, these fact-filled information sheets provide a host of how-to tips and lists for everyone who works in or on a pig farm to be knowledgeable about and follow, per your farm's biosecurity plan.

I particularly like the fact that these new resources have broken out key parts of production such as: how to enter a pig farm, biosecurity checklist, African swine fever checklist, Secure Pork Supply checklist and foreign animal disease reporting.

In the end, it's about more than simply knowing what to do, but putting these protocols and practices into use every day if your goal is to maximize your herd's full potential. Doing so can keep your herd's health on the path to biosecurity success.

Johnson, DVM, is one of the swine health experts at Carthage Veterinary Service, who relies on science and experience to provide unique and practical solutions to achieve the best outcomes for producers and their animals.

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