Identifying biosecurity hazards: Whose job is it?

It will take everyone in the swine industry taking responsibility to make sustainable progress on biosecurity to improve herd health.

June 4, 2024

3 Min Read

By Kate Dion and Derald Holtkamp, Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine

There is no one-size-fits-all recommendation for optimum on-farm biosecurity, as each farm has its own set of risks for disease outbreaks. Thus, it is necessary that everyone involved in the operation learn how to identify biosecurity hazards and avoid or reduce the hazards once they are recognized. The approach developed for the Standardized Outbreak Investigation Program, funded by the Swine Health Information Center, can be applied by anyone to identify biosecurity hazards. This article describes the approach and terminology to help you identify biosecurity hazards.

A pathogen-carrying agent is anything that can carry a pathogen from a source into a susceptible herd. The carrying agent may be infected with the pathogen and enter a herd directly through infected animal animals, or the carrying agent may become contaminated and enter the herd indirectly through sources such as contaminated livestock trailers, supplies or people.

Entry events occur when one or more pathogen-carrying agents cross the perimeter buffer area of a farm. The frequency of entry events matters since every time an entry event occurs, there is an opportunity to introduce a pathogen into the herd. These events include all the “ins and outs” of the farm. Entry events include swine movements, deliveries and removals, people movements, other animals and insect entry, and air and water entry into the farm.

For a pathogen to infect a herd and cause a disease outbreak, there are “3 failures” that must occur:

  1. Failure to prevent pathogen contamination or infection of the pathogen-carrying agent.

  2. Failure to mitigate pathogen contamination or infection of the pathogen-carrying agent.

  3. Failure to prevent transmission of pathogen from pathogen-carrying agent to pigs.

Biosecurity hazards result from circumstances or actions likely to result in one of the “3 failures.” Biosecurity hazards originate in the production process. It is essential to consider the entire production process, as portions of the process may occur outside of the farm itself (ex., truck wash, feed mill, maintenance shop, etc.). Aspects of the production process where biosecurity hazards are found include structural, operational procedures, and resources related to the process. Finding the biosecurity hazards requires examining the details of the production process and identifying when one of the “3 failures” could occur. Questions to consider when reviewing each production practice include:

  • Who performs the operational procedures?

  • What resources and equipment are available and used to perform the operational procedures?

  • Where are the operational procedures completed? Where includes the location and structural aspects of the building and site layout and design.

  • When are the operational procedures performed?

  • How are operational procedures performed?

Once the biosecurity hazards are identified, biosecurity control measures can be implemented to prevent, eliminate or reduce the hazard.

Having the ability to identify biosecurity hazards is critical for all employees involved in the production process, from caretakers to supervisors. Your veterinarian can serve as a resource for biosecurity decisions, but all employees should be trained to independently identify biosecurity hazards, as everyone makes decisions every day that can either create or reduce biosecurity hazards. It takes the entire team to develop a habit of identifying biosecurity hazards and implementing workable and effective biosecurity control measures.

Perfection is not expected, but biosecurity hazards are additive, so we must take action and control what we can when considering biosecurity. We must think like a pathogen trying to find a new home in a susceptible herd. It is everyone’s job to stop the pathogen from succeeding by changing the “who, what, where, when and how” things are done on a daily basis. It will take everyone in the swine industry taking responsibility to make sustainable progress on biosecurity to improve herd health and protect the industry from the introduction of emerging and transboundary diseases like African swine fever.

To assist producers and veterinarians in identifying and prioritizing biosecurity hazards, the Standardized Outbreak Investigation Program, developed at Iowa State University and funded by SHIC, was recently launched as a web-based application. More information can be found here.

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