If you're like me, New Year's resolutions are easy to create but hard to stick to. While I may not make life-altering improvements every January, I do find the exercise of setting a few New Year's goals to be a very worthwhile exercise.
Because it's easy to find reasons to abandon your resolution as the year goes on, I find that quick hitter, "just do it" projects which I can rapidly accomplish work the best. Exercise three times a week for the entire year? Yep, probably not going to happen every week. Lose five pounds? Now that's a little more realistic. Even better, I'll be ecstatic when I look at the scale and feel successful! I may gain it back ("will gain it back" may be the more appropriate statement …) but it's a tangible and attainable target, that when once achieved gives me motivation to create a new goal.
I like to think of improvements in pig production much the same way. Score 100% on my biosecurity audit every visit for the entire year? That's a pretty difficult goal to motivate the farm toward as it just takes one mistake to consider the year a "failure." If I take a different approach and make my goal to fix the biggest biosecurity gap on my farm that's much more attainable and again, I am confident and motivated to go do even more once I've achieved it.
In the spirit of making tangible and attainable goals which make a real difference, I'd like to propose a New Year's goal for American pig farmers of all shapes and sizes – create a Secure Pork Supply Plan for your farm(s). I'm sure you've heard of Secure Pork Supply; it's a program that's been around for years but it's never been more important to your operation and our industry as a whole than it is today. The goal of Secure Pork Supply is to get American producers back into normal business functions as soon as possible following a foreign animal disease outbreak.
Secure Pork documents your biosecurity program in addition to other functions such as manure and mortality disposal. This documentation helps regulatory authorities quickly familiarize themselves with your operation and get comfortable that you are low risk to propagate the FAD outbreak. This puts you at the front of the line to resume critical activities such as feed delivery and pig movements. To help you get started, I'm going to walk you through how to draft a plan for your farms. For those who want to learn more about the program, you can visit the SPS website.
There are a couple of items you'll want to have handy – your Premise Identification Number, each site's latitude and longitude and an aerial map of your farm(s). If you don't have a PIN already, contact your state animal health official right now to get one. No matter where you live, you can find out how to get one.
If you don't have an aerial map, I bet you have a smart phone which we can create one with. Open up the mapping program of your choice the next time you're at the farm and select the "Satellite" option. Zoom in or out to be able to see the entire site layout, then take a screenshot to capture this image. Email it to yourself so you can add it to the Word document template you'll be filling out.
Creating your customized farm map
A picture is worth a thousand words and a well labeled map of your farm will quickly help people understand how you protect your farm from disease introduction. This is quick and easy; the whole process will take you less than 30 minutes. Using specific colors, shapes and arrows you're going to need to highlight your site entry, lines of separation, parking areas, vehicle movement pathways, mortality disposal, etc.
See the SPS website for complete details on how to label the maps using their specific legend identifiers. If you're tech savvy you can do all this with Power Point or Word. Not tech savvy? No problem, just print out your aerial map and grab some sharpies to label the farm. A couple of quick tips from having done quite a few of these:
- You'll see the terms "Perimeter Buffer Area" and "PBA Access Point(s)," you may not be familiar with these but you can just think of the PBA as the area around your buildings where vehicles are not allowed to drive and even foot traffic would ideally be avoided. We all know that the outside of our barns are "dirty," think of the PBA as the "dirty" area closest to the farm where we don't want high-risk visitors like rendering or feed trucks traveling.
- Ninety-five percent of the map-drawing exercise is just labeling what you do today. The 5% that will likely be new and different is labeling an area for your "Cleaning and Disinfection Station(s)." There is a very real possibility that during a FAD outbreak we'll be asked to wash and disinfect vehicles before and/or after coming onto the farm, even if they were washed and disinfected previously. This area is just what it sounds like – it's the location where it makes the most sense for this to happen. Keep in mind you will need to be able to get water and electricity to this area. Consider drainage, you don't want wash water running toward the farm. Don't put this proposed area inside your PBA, leave it just to the outside of where you draw these lines.
Writing your site-specific biosecurity plan
Similar to the mapping exercise, 95% of this area is likely just documenting what you do for your biosecurity plan and training program. Don't have a biosecurity plan? Call your veterinarian and ask them to help you get started. Don't have training materials and/or a documentation process? Again, call your veterinarian and ask for assistance. You can also find excellent biosecurity training videos, posters and signs at the Secure Pork site.
You'll need to define a biosecurity manager for the site; I think it generally makes sense for this to be the farm manager. You'll also have to define two people who have the authority to ensure compliance with biosecurity protocols (in addition to the biosecurity manager). One of these people should be your veterinarian.
Once you've established who's in charge of biosecurity at the site you'll document your biosecurity training efforts as well as your plan for preventing disease introduction. You'll answer questions about how people enter the site, who would run the C&D Station should it ever be needed as well as how you identify the parking area and lines of separation. You'll document all of the normal biosecurity procedures for feed deliveries, live haul transportation, entry logbooks, pig movements, semen introductions, rodent and bird control, manure management and mortality disposal. I promise, if you use the SPS Biosecurity Template, you'll be amazed at how quickly this process goes. It might take you an hour to complete the first form, but if you have multiple farms you'll find the process goes very quickly once you've filled out your first template.
You've written your plan – What's next?
Next steps depend on your state. Some states are being very aggressive in reviewing these plans and at least one is taking the proactive step of approving them once submitted. If you aren't sure what your state is doing with these plans, ask your veterinarian and they'll help guide you through the next steps.
I can tell you from experience it's a wonderful feeling when you get notification from a state animal health official that they've reviewed and signed off on your Secure Pork Supply Plan! You'll have plenty to worry about in the initial hours and days following identification of a FAD in the U.S., having this plan in place and approved puts you at the front of the line to get back to business as usual.
Also keep in mind that regulatory authorities are going to be pretty busy during the outbreak, reviewing your newly submitted plan won't be at the top of their priority list. Even if you quickly get it done, it doesn't mean it will be approved anytime soon. Be proactive, do it now and reserve your spot for an early return to business continuity.
That's it, in an hour or two you've completed all the paperwork you need to become a member of the SPS community – we welcome you with open arms! You can officially check this New Year's resolution off your list as completed and successful. As you filled out the biosecurity plan I'm sure you have some thoughts about ways to improve biosecurity on your farm. Why not use the confidence and motivation you've gained from completing your SPS Plan to kick off a new biosecurity initiative? Get started soon and good luck!