How to manage herd closure for PRRS elimination

Herd closures to eliminate porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS) are on the increase due in part to the virulent variant identified as PRRS 1-4-4 L1C.

“PRRS 1-4-4 L1C has hit people hard,” reported Paul Yeske, DVM, Swine Vet Center in St. Peter, Minnesota. “The elimination process for this variant is what we’ve done for all PRRS viruses, and the program has been very successful at getting the herd to make PRRS-negative pigs.”

Yeske offered suggestions for a successful herd closure to eliminate PRRS from a farm.

Prepare for herd closure

The first step is increasing gilt inventory to cover the full closure time, which typically runs 210 to 240 days, according to Yeske.

“If there’s an on-site gilt developer where the farm is getting the gilts as Isoweans, they already have 6 months of gilts and only need to increase capacity for a couple months,” he said. If the farm has no on-site gilt development, they must either find another site to hold these animals or be able to fill the space available and live with the current inventory.

Just prior to closure, Yeske recommended implementing a feedback program that’s given to all sows and gilts to provide scour control for 6 to 8 months of the closure. “A lesson learned from PED (porcine epidemic diarrhea) was that we can help ourselves on scour control by doing a whole-herd feedback at the beginning of a herd closure,” he said.

Closure begins

Herd closure begins when sows are exposed with serum collected from the farm site. This occurs after the sow herd has recovered from the initial break and are eating and feeling good again. Some farms even wait until all replacements are on site.

He suggested following up 3 weeks later with a statistical sampling around the site to confirm the herd is positive. Make sure to obtain tests from all barns to ensure all animals are positive going forward.

“The injections start the clock ticking for 240 days and maybe longer, depending on how testing goes,” Yeske said. “Essentially, we wait for time to allow immunity to develop and shedding from sows to decrease.

“The theory is the virus will shed for a period of time, and the immune system will clear the virus from the sows,” he explained. “Since there are no animals in the herd that can be infected, theoretically the virus should die out on the farm, allowing for negative replacements to enter and not become infected.”

Throughout the herd closure, Yeske said the farm should focus on cleaning and disinfecting rooms, hallways, loadouts and any place weaned pigs move. Also, movement between litters should be minimized, and staff should be diligent about changing boots and coveralls when going back to handling young pigs. They should always work from youngest to oldest pigs, and change and clean up before going back to younger pigs.

Testing regimens

After 10 to 12 weeks of closure, collecting and testing piglet processing fluids begins, which will indicate the level of viremia in piglets. “Are we still positive or are we going negative?” he said. “We watch the Ct (cycle threshold) values and hope to see them go up. A lower number means more virus in the sample.”

Yeske recommended using processing fluids because samples are relatively easy to obtain, and it is less expensive than other testing methods. Plus, it essentially tests all piglets in a pooled sample, he added. Most farms pool a week’s worth of samples to reduce cost, yet still monitor to see if the herd is progressing.

When processing fluids start testing PRRS-negative, then piglets should be tested at weaning to see if they have remained negative through lactation. At this point, processing-fluid samples should be tested by room or day to help isolate the positive locations.

“Before weaning, most do blood testing, but you can use family oral fluids,” Yeske said. “With family oral fluids, hang the rope so the sow can chew on it first, and the piglets will chew on it too. Some litters respond better to family oral fluids than others, which is why most will use blood samples.

“The other option is to blood test the poorest-quality pigs, 30 to 60 a week or month, to establish if pigs are negative at weaning,” he added.

When to open herd

Depending on the farm, some use 60 days of negative tests at weaning, and others use 90 days of negative tests before ending the closure, according to Yeske.

“What we’ve seen is 210 days is the sweet spot for herd closures,” he said. “We tried 180 days and didn’t have good success. If you use 210 days, you have higher confidence that the herd is ready to take PRRS-negative gilts.

“And if you don’t get the piglets testing negative at 210 days, then we just wait. That’s when some people go to 240 days or longer. Remember, time is your friend in elimination programs versus ending the closure too soon.”

Closure ends

Once the closure is finished, the final step is repopulating. If a genetic supplier for a farm with an on-site gilt developer can provide a staged population, Yeske recommended refilling the gilt developer that way.

If only weaned pigs are available from the supplier to repopulate the herd, the farm will need a clean place to raise clean animals. “That’s a potential limitation, and you must think about that going into an elimination,” he said.

“Overall, the process of PRRS elimination is relatively inexpensive. And it’s been able to push the field virus out of herds,” Yeske added. “Some farms in pig-dense areas will maintain a vaccination status. They will be negative to the field virus but have a PRRS vaccine to have some herd immunity in case of a new virus exposure.”

 

 

How to avoid winter ventilation pitfalls

During winter, swine facilities usually operate at minimum-ventilation rates. But if those rates aren’t correct, high humidity and excess gases will build up leading to increased disease and reduced growth rates, reported Sam Holst, DVM, Swine Vet Center, St. Peter, Minnesota.

“A good understanding of basic ventilation concepts and some routine monitoring to make sure everything is working properly will help set up a barn environment to optimize health and performance while also keeping utility costs in check,” he said. “A lot of ventilation mistakes result from efforts to try to save propane or other utility costs.”

Holst offered several tactics to avoid common winter ventilation mistakes that increase costs.

Calculate minimum ventilation

A big mistake that increases costs and reduces pig performance is an incorrect minimum-ventilation rate.

“Minimum ventilation is the amount of fresh air needed to be brought into the barn to help control humidity and gases like carbon dioxide and ammonia,” Holst explained.

“It’s important to get this correct because over-ventilating will waste propane and electricity leading to inflated utility costs,” he said. “On the flip side, if we under-ventilate, we’ll produce an environment that’s detrimental to health and performance.”

Minimum-ventilation rates should be calculated based on the number of pigs in the room and size of the fans on stage one. Use the following reference charts to help determine the minimum rates. Reference charts for required maximum cubic feet per minute (CFM) per pig and fan CFM output (Figure 1) and  (Figure 2) are helpful for these calculations. (Located at end of article.)

“It’s worth the time and effort to calculate the minimum-speed setting for stage one rather than use an arbitrary setting,” Holst added.

Set heater correctly

During the winter, heater and furnace use increase greatly. Holst stressed making sure the heater is set correctly to achieve consistent room temperature and limit propane waste. He’s seen propane use drop by several gallons per heater per day when settings were corrected.

One costly mistake is setting the heater shutoff temperature too close to the set-point temperature. Room temperature rises even after the furnace shuts off as it takes some time for the heated air to circulate and the probes in the building to detect the increase in room temperature. If the heater is programmed to shut off too close to set point, the room temperature will rise above the set point causing minimum-ventilation fans to speed up and exhaust heated air – essentially blowing recently burned propane right out of the building.

“A good way to finetune furnace settings is to make note of the current settings and watch the room temperature as it cycles through a heater on-and-off run,” Holst explained. “Ideally, once the heater shuts off, the room temperature should rise to just below set point without going over. If the temperature rises above set point, then adjust the heater setting so it shuts off further below set point. In most cases this will be 1.5˚F to 2.0˚F below set point.”

Check temperature probes, fans

All the temperature data fed into the controller to determine ventilation settings comes from temperature probes located in the facilities. If the probes are not functioning correctly, are placed in incorrect locations or are at the wrong  heights, information fed into the controller is inaccurate.

“If that happens, the result is an unfavorable barn environment,” Holst said.

Also, make sure fans are clean and not covered with  debris and dust. Just 1/8 inch of dust will reduce fan efficiency by 40%, he added.

Wrap curtains in plastic

“It can be beneficial to cover curtains with bubble wrap or plastic in the winter to help reduce drafts and heat loss,” Holst said.

His recommendation is to fully cover curtains on the north side of buildings with bubble wrap or plastic. On the south side, cover the curtains up to one foot from where it opens at the top so the curtains can be opened during a warm day.

Following these recommendations for winter ventilation should help keep utility costs in check and provide a healthy environment for pig growth through cold weather, he added.

 

Figure 1.

 

Figure 2.

Mycoplasma hyopneumoniae elimination becomes possible

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Over the past two decades, the swine industry learned how to eliminate Mycoplasma hyopneumoniae (Mhp) from herds without depopulation/repopulation, according to Paul Yeske, DVM, Swine Vet Center, St. Peter, Minnesota. Yeske has been at the forefront of the efforts to eliminate the respiratory disease for clients.

The move to eliminate Mhp from herds has “really picked up momentum in the last 4 to 5 years,” Yeske added in an interview with Pig Health Today. In fact, efforts are underway to work towards areas or regions in Minnesota that are Mhp-free, with the end goal being the elimination of the disease from the state.

Why elimination?

When the industry moved toward high-health status sow herds, instability increased when Mhp-negative replacement animals entered positive herds and became infected just before farrowing, Yeske explained. Maintaining an Mhp-stable herd was a lot of work because the organism is very slow and takes a long time to infect animals and you must be deliberate in every step of the process. It also takes a long time for Mhp to clear from animals – up to 240 days. Gilt replacements need to be exposed by 80 days of age so they are not shedding the Mhp when they farrow.

As a result, many producers decided to eliminate it from their systems. Yeske noted that once a system has a good gilt-stabilization program, the herd is also set up well to go on to an elimination program.

“The herds we stocked that were negative from the beginning showed us the advantages of negative production,” he explained. “If you look at the literature, [the cost of Mhp] is anywhere from $2 to $10 a pig, and the average probably being in that $5 range. We know there’s a significant cost and a significant return.

“If we do a long-term closure, we’re talking about somewhere in that 3- to 4-month payback,” he continued. “If we do a heavy medication program and no closure, we’re talking about an 11- to 12-month payback.”

In addition, eliminating Mhp takes away the “add-on effects” when a herd experiences other infections like influenza and porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS) which can be even more costly.

“Producers have taken the approach —  ‘let’s take one off the table because we can’,” he said.

Statewide elimination efforts

Leading the work to eliminate Mhp from Minnesota is Maria Pieters, DVM, University of Minnesota. Yeske said the plan is in its early days but hopefully they’ll be able to get more herds involved and help reduce the potential for lateral risks of Mycoplasma spread.

“But it’s like any other voluntary program…there’s always going to be some period of time for adaption,” he said.

He doesn’t expect that in five years Mhp will be eliminated, but “hopefully at some point, I can still come back to the Leman Conference and say, ‘We used to have Mycoplasma‘.”

Tighten up biosecurity protocols for supply and equipment entry

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All types of supplies and equipment enter a hog farm every week, putting an operation at risk of a disease outbreak. But improved biosecurity protocols with multiple layers help ensure items entering a farm are fully disinfected, reported Erin Kettelkamp, DVM, Swine Vet Center, St. Peter, Minnesota.

Some supplies are at greater risk than others. New supplies coming directly from warehouses probably won’t have a big risk of introducing pathogens. But if there’s cross contamination with other supplies or equipment traveling from other farms or housed at different warehouses within a system, she explained, it can be a cause for concern.

Kettelkamp detailed some of the updated biosecurity protocols for supply and equipment entry onto a farm.

Disinfecting supplies

Time with temperature is a simple way to disinfect items that are bulky or difficult to disinfect. Place the items in a segregated space and heat it to 100° F for 24 to 48 hours for removal of pathogens, she said.

Different fogging-type disinfectants may also work if a fumigation room is available. In addition, she said items can always be sprayed down or hand-wiped with disinfectant.

Maintenance tools shared with other farms in a system pose a much greater risk than new supplies entering a farm. “If tools have come from another sow farm or other swine operation, we know there’s been contact, and those items pose a risk, especially if there are pathogens associated with it,” Kettelkamp said.

She suggested a layered disinfection approach where a producer could utilize both time/temperature and disinfection, such as utilizing a fogging practice and layering that with spraying those items down.

Fogging practices

Kettelkamp spent some time during her veterinary studies at the University of Illinois looking at fogging practices. Originally, she said, foggers weren’t very effective because producers didn’t realize the fogged disinfectants weren’t permeating the room and acting like a true fog to disinfect the items in the fumigation room.

“Items were getting stacked close together where the droplets couldn’t reach,” she explained. “The droplets were just rising and falling, like you hand-sprayed them, so the bottoms weren’t getting contacted. There was shadowing. Sometimes we forgot to put disinfectant in the fogger, so that was a big hiccup and obviously that doesn’t work.”

In her university work, she searched for what could be done to make these systems work better. She identified a dry-fog system from human medicine that distributes the disinfectant using a very small particle size. A traditional fogger used more of a fine mist.

However, a true dry-fog system isn’t currently available commercially to swine farms because of durability and ease of use. “Hopefully, we’ll develop that technology so it is more readily available on farm,” she added.

In the meantime, Hurricane foggers, operated at the lowest flow rate with a hydrogen peroxide/paracetic acid blend, can provide a 90% efficacy rate for disinfection.

Auditing biosecurity

People are creatures of habit, Kettelkamp said, so how can bad habits be broken or good habits be reinforced so good biosecurity practices are maintained? Even if there is a procedure list in place, it’s always good to have a third party or another person from the farm come in and check to make sure the staff is following these practices, she recommended.

As far as shoring up biosecurity, Kettelkamp said it depends on the farm. Overall sanitation is very important and should not just be something that is talked about maybe once a month or whenever the veterinarian visits.

“[Biosecurity] needs to be a true culture to keep everything in order, and that stems from the office into the hallways, and exudes out into how clean we keep the farm in general and protecting it from all sorts of biosecurity risks,” she added. “It’s also making sure our barns are up to date and making sure our loadout chutes are getting clean and all of those things.”

 

 

Nursery transition tied to increase in pig scours

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Swine producers may be seeing an increase in young pig scours, particularly in the early nursery, according to Ross Kiehne, DVM, Swine Vet Center, St. Peter, Minnesota.

Baby pigs do well in farrowing, but when they are weaned onto solid feed in the nursery, some of the pigs do not make that transition. After 3 to 6 days in the nursery, about 5% to 7% of pigs become thin and end up in a sick pen, he explained.

Kiehne has been doing more diagnostics trying to determine what diseases may be involved and then coming up with a management plan to help nursery operations do better.

Rotavirus main culprit

“The disease I keep coming up with is rotavirus,” he said. “I think what causes this is the change to the gut; then rotavirus sees an opportunity to cause some scour issues.

“It’s usually something that you can treat with just really good water,” he continued. “You can get them through it, but it doesn’t seem to be enough right now. The levels I’m finding in the guts are higher than I think we’ve had in the past.”

Kiehne is looking into different products that could be fed to young pigs to help with rotavirus. He’s working with nutritionists to make changes to feeding plans.

“We’ll try feed A versus feed B, and it might have more whey in it or less whey in it or more sugars, less sugars or whatever the nutritionists come up with,” he explained. “Then we’ll do a fecal scoring on them, and we’ve actually seen we can improve it with a change in nutrition.”

E. coli also a threat

Another culprit with young pig scours is Escherichia coli, Kiehne said, which can be easier to treat since there are antibiotics that can help with the infections. “But we’re finding some E. coli that are resistant to almost every antibiotic that we have,” he added.

Kiehne summarized the infection cascade as a harder-starting pig entering the nursery, getting some rotavirus, and then opportunistic pathogens like E. coli jumping in and becoming a real nuisance. “It’s usually a little worse in the winter because you can chill pigs, and you have to shut down barns and that kind of thing,” he added. “So I’m a little worried this winter could be another battle.”

Know the threats

To combat these nursery scours, Kiehne recommended getting out into the barns and posting pigs to see what is involved disease-wise.

“Then work with your nutritionist because…moving from a sow to solid feed is probably the most stress those pigs will ever go under,” he said. “Making sure it’s the best transition for these pigs will be very helpful.”

 

 

How to attract people to work on your hog farm

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The biggest issue facing most hog farms today is a shortage of workers, according to Laura Bruner, DVM, Swine Vet Center, St. Peter, Minnesota.

“If you ask (producers) what their challenges are in their day-to-day life, it’s finding labor and enough labor to be able to take care of the sows and get the production they want,” she said.

COVID initially played a role in having fewer workers available. But other issues are also involved. “People are getting farther and farther away from the farm,” she added. “Finding people who want to work with pigs was difficult before COVID, and it is certainly more difficult now.”

Create strong company culture

Producers hoping to attract workers who are interested in agriculture need to consider their company culture and if it’s a place people want to work.

“The culture that is probably the most successful is the culture that puts pigs and people first,” Bruner said. “When you’re making decisions, you ask two questions: Is it good for the people, and is it good for the pigs? That’s a culture that across our client base has never failed.”

Operators wondering if they have a good culture can figure that out by asking employees if they would refer a sister or brother to work there.

“If the answer is no, then you probably need to take a look at the health of your company,” she said.

Improving a culture can start with a well-written mission statement to reflect the company’s overall purpose. Bruner said most of their clients have mission statements.

“It’s the one mission that everybody, from the person feeding the animals all the way up to the owner, are all striving for,” she said. “They are all pulling toward the same goal, and everybody knows that goal and mission.”

Help workers win

Attracting and keeping employees means making sure they feel like they are “winning” either professionally or personally with the job.

“I think everybody, when they go to their job, wants to feel like they’re winning in some capacity,” Bruner said. “For a guy or gal just starting a family, winning for them might be learning and gaining more experience to make more money and support the family.”

Flexibility in the job may be a winning solution for other workers. For example, she suggested some people may want to assist sows overnight or work evening hours versus early morning.

“Everybody is different, and if you’re a company that can flex to that, I think you’ll have a better shot at getting and retaining employees,” she said.

Where to find workers

In today’s culture, social media is the best way to find workers, besides personal connections in the community.

“Everybody is on social media, and developing that platform is important,” she said. “Plus having your employees who currently work for you being your advocate and recruiter is a good thing.”

Temporary visa workers

Another option to find workers is the Trade NAFTA (TN) visa program that allows professional agricultural workers from Canada and Mexico to work in the US for up to 3 years. Bruner has seen some farms use just a few TN workers while other farms hire TN workers for a majority of their positions.

“This has been a good resource for finding farm labor,” she said. “But it comes with a bit of ownership because these people are coming from other countries. They usually don’t have a driver’s license, and they don’t have a place to live…So it takes a little bit of time and investment for the employer.

“The TN visa program has been very good for our clients, and we have the ability to help them on the recruiting and training end,” Bruner added. “It is just another example of the industry continuing to think outside the box to solve problems in their business.”

 

M. hyo elimination or control: ‘We have the tools to succeed’

Hog farmers and veterinarians no longer have to accept the poorer performance that results from Mycoplasma hyopneumoniae (M. hyo) infection. Whether the decision is to control or eliminate M. hyo, there are numerous options and tools available, and the payoff is real.

Having completed his first M. hyo elimination in 2004 — a herd that remains negative today — Paul Yeske, DVM, Swine Vet Center in St. Peter, Minnesota, is a leader in the elimination effort. “There are a lot more negative herds today, but M. hyo continues to be a problem for the swine industry,” he said. “Compared to when we started, today we have the tools to succeed.”

He is quick to add that M. hyo elimination is not the only option; there is nothing wrong with committing to control or stabilization strategies within a herd.

“It does take time and effort, and you’re not always successful at ongoing stabilization,” he said. “You have to do things right consistently. You’ve got to be very committed to a gilt developer unit and have a strategy to uniformly and routinely expose replacements and that groups turn [M. hyo] positive. It’s a challenge.”

A range of options

M. hyo elimination and control programs do not rely on a standardized methodology. Rather the decisions are influenced by the operation’s goals, risk tolerance, timeline and willingness to commit to the required steps.

“You’ve got options,” Yeske emphasized. “There’s depop/repop, the Swiss method, herd closure, whole-herd medication programs, and even more are surfacing from them.”

Depop/repop is the fastest way to eliminate M. hyo, but it’s also the most dramatic and costly. Medication without herd closure can work but has about a 50% success rate 1 year out. “It’s a coin toss, but if you’re on the right side of that, it feels pretty good,” Yeske said.

Herd closure has evolved into the more reliable and moderate option, with a success rate around 86%. And, for herds already closed for porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome clean up, M. hyo is an easy add-on, requiring just an extra 30 days for a total of 240 days. “I don’t think M. hyo elimination would have moved as fast without that,” he added.

The key to success with M. hyo is to secure a supply of negative replacement gilts, inoculate them and honor the 240-day shedding period. “We don’t want to be shedding at farrowing, so you have to work backward and expose those gilts by around 80 days of age,” Yeske said. That means it will not work to bring replacement gilts in at select weights and try to expose them to M. hyo; there’s just not enough time.

While the 240-day closure is critical today, Yeske expects that “as we go forward, we need to find ways to shorten that time frame, maybe with different medication strategies.”

Big changes and tools

Advances in diagnostics are among the big changes that have boosted efforts to address M. hyo. Serology used to be the only sample option. Today, there are polymerase chain reaction tests that can use multiple samples — tracheal/bronchial samples are the gold standard, and laryngeal swabs are easy to get. Oral fluids have limitations, but a positive test signals there’s a real problem.

Sequencing is a helpful tool today. “When we started, we didn’t sequence for M. hyo, but as time went on it became more feasible,” Yeske noted. “Now we can identify the sequence to see if we’re dealing with the same M. hyo before an elimination, so if there is a rebreak we can determine if it is a new one for the herd.”

Moving from intratracheal inoculation to aerosol/fogging inoculation has been a game changer. Not only is it effective, it’s much easier on pigs and people.

While biosecurity is not a new tool, it’s too important to overlook. “Even after you’ve done an elimination, M. hyo can still get around it,” he added. And oftentimes a biosecurity review reveals a need to refresh the basics.

Finally, there’s a lot of talk about filtered barns, and they have proven to be another useful tool. “Filters are a plus,” Yeske noted. “Today, so far in our practice, we haven’t had a filtered farm that has broken.”

Motivation behind elimination

Mortality associated with M. hyo is not the driving factor behind elimination efforts. Yes, there’s an impact, but it is not as dramatic as some other herd health challenges. So, why do people continue to work on elimination over time?

“At the end of the day, it’s all about pig performance and the return,” Yeske said.

A review of production records showed the impact of M. hyo was $3.60 to $5 per pig. The scientific literature cites a range of $2 to $10 per pigs. Yeske believes $5 per pig is a solid average.

That money comes from productivity impacts, and elimination offers improved average daily feed intake, average daily gain and feed conversion. Mortality rates and medication costs also decline.

He worked with Daniel Linhares, DVM, Iowa State University, on an economic model measuring return on investment (ROI), using a 5,000-sow farm and a $5 average cost for M. hyo. They also considered the costs of an elimination project and reduced revenues for a time. They found that the ROI for a herd closure was 3.12 months; for a medication program it was 11.36 months

“So, it’s pretty quick; it’s not a long time to stay negative to get your money back,” Yeske said. “That’s why we’re seeing interest in elimination.”

It’s all been an evolution that has developed better tools from aerosol exposure to the diagnostics to sequencing, Yeske noted. “There will be even more methods — new and different methods for the swine industry in the future. The evolution will continue.”

 

Filtration audits help prepare for PRRS season

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Regular biosecurity checks with a close look at filtration and ventilation systems will help prevent the spread of airborne pathogens like porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS), according to Jeff Feder, DVM, Swine Vet Center, St. Peter, Minnesota.

“With all the [PRRS] breaks we had last fall that continued into June…it’s an important time to start refocusing on biosecurity if you’re not already,” Feder said.

“And one way we’ve done that is to have a system of conducting audits on farms, whether you call it a filtration audit or biosecurity audit,” he added. “It is really a combination of those two things.”

Ventilation inspections

During biosecurity audits on a filtered farm, Feder inspects all filters to determine if any need to be replaced. He also looks for air leaks, especially in negative-pressure ventilation systems where air is pulled through filters to prevent pathogens from entering the buildings.

“If you have not installed a shutter wall (double-shutter system) yet, I would also highly recommend this to prevent backdrafting of unfiltered air through inactive fans, and fans not used in the winter should be sealed,” he said.

Another big ticket item to reduce risk on filtered farms is pressurized loadouts to prevent unfiltered air from entering the farm while animals are being moved in or out.

Filtration on sow farms has gained ground since the first filters were installed 15 years ago. “Well over half the sows we work with [are filtered], and some large systems would be up to 100% of sows are filtered,” Feder said.

“There’s getting to be more interest in filtering wean-to-finish and finishing barns as time goes on, to protect those animals and also as a buffer to keep pigs clean that are [near] sows and boar studs,” he added.

Other biosecurity concerns

Of course, biosecurity includes many other components including people, supply and animal entry.

“Another part of biosecurity is isolation of incoming animals if live animals are entering the farm,” Feder said. He reviews entry protocols, which include testing for pig health status.

Feed entry has become an important part of biosecurity since research shows pathogens including African swine fever and porcine epidemic diarrhea virus enter hog farms through feed.

“There’s been a lot of excellent research looking at ways…to reduce that risk, whether those are chemical mitigants, time or temperature mitigation,” he added.

Another biosecurity risk Feder and his colleagues are reviewing is manure pumping.

“There’s the risk that neighboring farms pose as they pump manure from potentially PRRS-positive farms,” he said. “But there’s also a risk to farms themselves as they pump. In filtered farms, that creates more risk as you open up and allow some unfiltered air to enter the farm.”

Feder recommends all hog farms conduct regular biosecurity audits to ensure all disease risks are addressed.

“I encourage people to work with their veterinarians and look at some sort of program to analyze biosecurity before getting into a high-risk time of year,” he added.

 

 

New group prepares for possible ASF outbreak

A new group led by pork producers, state veterinarians and USDA might be able to help the pork industry maintain exports should the US experience an outbreak of African swine fever (ASF) or classical swine fever.

The new Swine Health Improvement Program (SHIP) will develop monitored certification plans for producers and packers/slaughter facilities.

“We can certify that herds are free-status today, and if there were ever an outbreak of one of those diseases, we can help producers get back to business as quickly as possible,” reported Paul Yeske, DVM, with Swine Vet Center. He has been involved with the program since it started in 2020.

Modeled after poultry

The impetus for SHIP came from a similar program called the National Poultry Improvement Plan in the poultry industry. After the last avian influenza outbreak, it helped poultry producers who were part of the program export products from specific regions, Yeske explained.

Key to making this program successful is including state government, USDA and the pork industry so they work together developing the solutions for health challenges.

“Everybody has a seat at the table, and hopefully this helps with the buy-in from all parties to make it easier to implement,” Yeske explained.

Funding for this program is still in the works. “In the poultry model, there’s state-federal sharing. So, we are hopeful the same thing can be set up [for the pork industry] as we go forward,” he added.

Exports allowed in outbreak

While there are other organizations getting prepared for ASF outbreaks, this one is different, according to Yeske.

“I think SHIP takes work on ASF to the next level by looking at biosecurity, specific testing protocols and traceability,” he said. “Those are the three cornerstones in this initial program.

“Then, if some areas become exposed, there is a mechanism to verify the status of herds. With the verified status, hopefully our export partners will accept it and allow those producers to continue to move product.”

It is anticipated that producers in the program will use the Secure Pork Supply Plan as a guideline for their biosecurity program and expand on it. Routine monitoring and testing will provide a status of the overall industry.

Now that ASF is closer to the US in Haiti and the Dominican Republic, Yeske admitted there is more urgency to getting plans ready.

“Producers have raised their level of awareness and are going back to review their Secure Pork Supply Plans and biosecurity protocols,” he added. “They’re making sure we don’t get that inadvertent contact that nobody wants to have.”