How far are you willing to go to keep your hog farm free from disease?
U.S. hog producers really stepped up their biosecurity game when porcine epidemic diarrhea virus hit the country's hog herd a few years back, but that's not to say we can't all do better.
The spread of African swine fever over the last two years in China, Asia and Eastern Europe has also garnered the attention of America's pig farmers, though the virus has yet to reach our country's swine. And we would like to keep it that way. But just how much are you willing to do to keep ASF, and any other deadly disease out of your herd and the country's herd as a whole?
Amelia Naher, veterinarian and director of Health Services for the AgroDivision at Cherkizovo Group in Russia, told the audience at last week's James D. McKean Swine Disease Conference in Ames, Iowa, that her company has taken great strides to prevent and curb the spread of ASF and other endemic diseases.
The Cherkizovo Group is located in an area of western Russia known as the Central Black Earth Region, with Naher's home base about a five-hour drive from Moscow. A look at a map showing ASF breaks in Russia puts the Cherkizovo hog production in the hotbed of ASF activity in the region, so she knows what she speaks of in the way of biosecurity.
Since ASF cases began cropping up in Russia back in 2007, the government took the situation seriously and has enacted measures meant to control the disease. One such measure is compartmentalization, where sites can fit into four different "compartments", 1 being the lowest level of biosecurity and 4 having the highest level of biosecurity. Compartment 4 status also provides those farms protection against restrictions during an outbreak, should one occur. Regular inspections are required for a premise to maintain their specific compartment status.
Naher says all of the Cherkizovo hog farms have Compartment 4 status.
In addition to Compartmentalization, the Russian government has also implemented Regionalization, which establishes borders that are randomly delineated by both natural and administrative barriers, and there would be increased testing procedures if your farm falls within a region that has a high risk for ASF. Electronic movement regulation or health certificates are also required for any movement. "This is feed, this is live animals, this is carcasses, this is meat. Everything has to have a health certificate that goes with it. And these are something that's updated immediately before movement. So, if you're wanting to do a last-minute change, somebody's going to know about it," she says.
Cherkizovo has suffered ASF breaks, both in 2014 and again two years later in 2016, causing the company to have a greater focus on biosecurity throughout the system.
A few items of heightened biosecurity that I found interesting from Naher's presentation were that the company has complete control of all transportation in and out of their facilities, in addition to operating their own truck washes. They take truck washing very seriously, auditing the entire truck wash system and trucks that are deemed dirty are rejected and sent back for rewashing.
In addition to having strict "clean" truck guidelines, the company also has established transportation routes that the trucks are allowed to follow, including designated stops that are allowed.
Each Cherkizovo site has high security, with surveillance cameras on site and in the barns, and an additional entry security measure is that every Cherkizovo truck that is hauling live animals is marked with a different color triangle, designating market hogs versus multiplication animals versus commercial internal movements between farms. "This is a quick way for sites to visualize it. Do you have the right truck coming to their site or not?" she says. "We'd have all the chart numbers that are also designated to come to the site. But a quick visualization just to make sure we have the right type of truck is with the triangles."
A lot of talk in this country has been about a border wall keeping out illegal immigrants, and I have thought that maybe all of our hog farms should have a border wall or fence around each of our hog farms to help keep out critters that may bring deadly diseases to our unsuspecting herds.
Naher says Compartment 4 farms in Russia are required to have a large fence around their perimeter, as well as a fence around every manure lagoon. The perimeter fences are required to be about two meters tall with a solid base. "They're looking to try to prevent any entry from any pests including wild boars," Naher says.
Another biosecurity component implemented at Cherkizovo sites may seem so simple, but Naher says she is concerned that more U.S. farms do not prohibit employees bringing in their own lunches. Lunches are catered in for Cherkizovo employees, eliminating the potential of an employee unintentionally bringing virus directly into a farm. By catering meals, the risk of 30 different lunch containers bringing who knows what is eliminated.
As with any great plan, it's only as good as its implementation and that gets down to the people factor, and as Naher says, "Biosecurity is all about the people, and layers … lots of layers."
These are just a few of the biosecurity measures that are in place in Russia, and they may sound extreme and extensive, but if they are effective at keeping ASF and other such diseases at bay, it may all be worth it. Plus, Cherkizovo took these measures due to the proximity of ASF breaks, as well as breaks of their own. I believe that it would be better to put the investment into upping your biosecurity game now, rather than waiting until your hand is being forced.
But again, you have to ask yourself: how far are you willing to go to keep your hog farm disease-free?