wine Farms’ Biosecurity Practices to Consider for the Poultry Industry, By Elizabeth Hines from Penn State University

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By and large, if you work in the swine industry, you likely live and breathe the word “biosecurity” in daily operations. Industry operations adhere to these practices because, when applied correctly and routinely, they work.

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A man posting a sign to stop unwanted visitors from entering a biosecure area.

Both the poultry and swine industries approach biosecurity by utilizing multiple methods of reducing disease contamination on personnel and equipment. These multiple methods of reducing potential contamination are critical, as diseases like Porcine Endemic Diarrhea virus can be infective with as few as 100 virus particles.

For context, it is said that millions of viral particles can be found on the head of a pin, which makes biosecurity application critical for reducing disease spread.

In the swine industry, the preferred approach to biosecurity considers the location of the farm, traffic around the farm and entry into the facility. Biosecurity looks different at these levels, but careful consideration is placed into each one.

Location of the Farm

Pig farms manage biosecurity by knowing and understanding their neighbors. Farms in pig-dense areas, where multiple pig farms are within 2 miles of each other, are considered at increased risk for disease spread due to potential local spread from neighboring farms.

The Pennsylvania Regional PRRS Control Program facilitates communication among neighboring farms to reduce the spread of aerosol-based illnesses, like porcine reproductive respiratory syndrome. Neighboring pets and people, neighboring crop land during manure spreading season and even wildlife areas can also be problematic to farm biosecurity.

Traffic Around the Farm

Traffic on the farm is not limited to vehicles. But vehicles are a large part.

Swine farms practice vehicle management on farms in a variety of ways. Cleaning vehicles and practicing downtime between farm visits are the preferred ways to reduce spread of diseases. Some farms also practice tire spraying before vehicles enter.

Further still, traveling to farms in a prescribed order — healthy and high-risk farms (sow farms with young pigs and nurseries) first with visits to farms that might have a confirmed illness or low-risk (finishing farms) later in the week — help keep healthy farms healthy. Feed and supply delivery vehicles practice this level of biosecurity routinely at the request of swine farms.

Traffic can also include animals that wander on the property. Pets, particularly cats, allowed to roam on farms have no regard for restricted areas and can easily carry illnesses into and out of barns.

Cats can carry pathogens on their body and are notorious vectors of toxoplasmosis. Any cat or wildlife that decides the feeder or bedding looks like a good litter box has now contaminated a pig area.

Due to this, pig farms manage human traffic and exclude animal traffic using landscaping tricks and barriers such as bird netting to exclude unwanted visitors. Farms that want to manage traffic around the farm can find assistance with biosecurity planning tools like Secure Pork Supply and the Secure Poultry/Egg Supply programs.

Entry Into the Facility

The final barrier level, and the most commonly thought of when discussing biosecurity, is entry into the facility itself. In the swine industry, entry barriers into facilities vary across phase of production (farrowing, nursery, finishing) and pig density.

Farrowing operations often have a combination of required downtime for individuals, Danish or bench entry way systems, two-portal doorway systems and full shower requirements before entering facilities.

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A worker carrying a towel to an on-farm laundry room.

Remember, in some cases, it takes very little virus to cause an infection. Once in the animal facility, crews are divided into teams to work in the farrowing area and in the gestation area to avoid unnecessary cross contamination to the youngest, most vulnerable pigs on the farm.

Regardless of the process for entry, farms routinely ask visitors to sign an entry log and report last location of pig contact. Further, employees that might be sick are encouraged to stay home for their health and the health of the livestock, as some illnesses, like influenza, can be passed to livestock.

This is a short list of just some of the key practices swine operations utilize to reduce incidence of disease outbreaks.