June 19, 2020
"Isn't the goal of the truck washes for the trucks to leave the truck wash clean?"
A valid question — and one raised recently during one of The Maschhoffs' transport team meetings. But as Amy Maschhoff points out, a healthy expectation should be that the trucks, trailers, drivers and all the supplies come to the farm clean.
"I think first and foremost, if we think about how we communicate with those people that we work with in our system, that we count on, is to make sure that we're actually setting the right expectation for the people who are executing those protocols every day," says the associate director of health for The Maschhoffs.
Over the past several years, disease outbreak investigations within The Maschhoffs system revealed gaps in its transport biosecurity procedures. Those gaps included trailer sanitation, driver protocols and connections between sites. Recently, the pork production system, based in Carlyle, Ill., began taking actions to improve its sanitation, segregation and dedication efforts across both its commercial and genetics operating regions.
Hygiene and sanitation
Like many pork production systems, The Maschhoffs has implemented both wash and disinfection protocols for cleaning trailers. The process includes having third-party audits and utilizing thermo-assisted drying and decontamination at most of its company-owned truck washes. Within the past year, it has added more locations with dedicated TADD systems for trailers that travel a significant distance before reaching their first loading site.
"Within our system, one of the things that we've implemented in the last couple of years is a secondary bake for those trailers that leave a specific truck wash, that is maybe several states away and hitting breed-to-wean farms," Maschhoff says. "We've implemented additional Bio-Dri systems for those trailers, so that we actually get those trailers dry before they touch the sow farm and implemented what we're terming as a secondary bake."
In addition, The Maschhoffs has also started using temperature tracking stickers to monitor that trailers are reaching desired temperatures and have created a standard operating procedure specifically for truck hygiene.
"I opened the doors of trucks that were on the clean side, and what the driver's truck wash definition of 'clean' was, was very different than what my definition of clean was," Maschhoff says. "One of the things that we've implemented on a few of our system truck washes today is there's actually trash cans and industrial-size vacuums on the dirty sides. When a driver gets in from his load for the day, he needs to remove the trash. He needs to vacuum out the truck cab, needs to wipe down the interior surfaces and make sure that his truck is cleaner than what it was when he arrived there."
In order to ensure drivers are adhering to these new SOPs, The Maschhoffs has started making industrial vacuums and cleaning supplies readily available at all of its truck wash locations.
Another area the pork producer has implemented within its biosecurity transport protocols is segregation, and it centers around four key areas. The first involves a segregated truck wash system.
"A couple of years ago, we stopped and said our nucleus and multiplier herds should not be connected to our commercial system," Maschhoff says. "Our system invested in a new truck wash to completely segregate those herds. In the event that we have a multiplier, for example, that geography is not well-located to completely segregate that from a generic truck wash, we have just increased the testing on those commercial sow farms; so that in the event of epidemic disease in our commercial system, we could find a way to isolate those trailers that are moving to and from those multipliers."
The company has also created a trailer classification system, which Maschhoff says is a work in progress. The trailer classification system applies to each trailer, driver and truck within the system and details where each can stop and start. The classification system also lists the site types each trailer, truck and driver can access.
For example, a multiplier trailer cannot touch a commercial sow farm. Also, if a site tests positive for a system-defined epidemic disease, such as porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus, that site would be removed from high-level classifications and moved to a lower tier.
Specific requirements are then defined for wash, disinfection, TADD procedures and downtime between those trailers' classes, so the system can still balance biosecurity and utilization of available trailer capacity.
The next step in segregation involves the cull sow market, which Maschhoff recognizes is often a breeding ground for disease transmission. Here, the pork production system uses a transfer chute to segregate trailers traveling to sow farms from cull buying stations.
Cull sows are loaded on specific sow farm dedicated trailers and then moved from the breeding farm to the transfer chute. At the transfer chute, a contract hauler or internal trailer of lower classification moves the sows to a different trailer and hauls them to the cull buying station. Maschhoff says this step saves trailers from increased steps such as additional washes or downtime.
Lastly, The Maschhoffs has been working on segregating drivers from touching farms as much as possible.
"If you go on our farms, we have stage loading rooms, so the driver backs up to the chute, doesn't get out of the truck, and all paperwork is done electronically," Maschhoff says. "In those cases, the farm staff becomes a driver, so we have a dirty-side shower that we put on those farms. We have a dedicated washer and dryer for that load clothing, and we keep those things segregated after they’ve been on the trailer."
In certain situations, the pork production system has invested in dedicated trailers for sites or flows. The trailers live on-site with the animals and are stored, washed and disinfected there, and have their own shop. Though it comes at an added cost, Maschhoff notes there have been times when the added "insurance" was worth it in protecting those specific sites.
Auditing and execution
In addition to quarterly audits by the team's health and animal care associates, the transport flow logistics team sends out plans for the upcoming weeks, so sites can review the trailer classification system and ensure that pigs going from Farm A to Farm B have been set up with the right trailer class to match the truck classification system. Finally, The Maschhoffs routinely audits its Bio-Dri system to confirm trailers that were supposed to be baked for 15 minutes, were actually baked for 15 minutes.
Maschhoff admits the new transportation biosecurity protocols are a work in progress. "We are only as good as the execution that happens every time, so we can write some really excellent standard operating procedures; but unless the people that are driving the trucks, that are at the truck wash, that are working with our pigs every day, execute it, then those things can't happen, even if we want them to."
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