Strategies to help manage tough times created by COVID-19

The fallout from coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) hit the US pork industry with a vengeance. Midwestern packing plants facing worker shortages from COVID-19 reduced processing and, in some cases, completely closed their doors.

In addition, labor on hog farms continues to be a big concern should positive COVID-19 cases develop.

Recognizing these serious issues, Swine Vet Center (SVC) in its latest SVC newsletter offers different strategies to help manage business through these challenging times.

Slow down ADG

Reduced packing plant operation means there are loads of hogs backed up and even cancelled, creating a backlog of hogs on the farm.

One way to handle this situation involves the intentional slow-down of average daily gain (ADG). Here are different ways to accomplish this:

  • Warm up room temperatures to 72° F to 76°
  • Cut back on square feet per pig.
  • Increase minerals, such as calcium chloride or monosodium phosphate, to slow intake.
  • Add fiber to reduce growth, using dried distillers’ grain if available or soy hulls.
  • Tighten up feeders to reduce intake.

Be sure to discuss these strategies with your nutritionist or SVC veterinarian to come up with a plan that makes sense for your system.

Reduce COVID-19 on farms

Farm workers are considered essential employees who work hard to keep a safe food supply during these uneasy times. Here are several ways to reduce transmission from employee to employee on sow farms:

  • Stagger entry times into farms so employees aren’t gathering before the shower.
  • Stagger break times and spread out tables in the break room.
  • Disinfect tables and counters after every use and at the end of the day. Disinfect the entire office daily and fumigate weekly.
  • Educate all employees on how the virus spreads.
  • Make sure employees are following the stay-at-home order to reduce exposure outside of work.
  • Split crews in half to a morning and evening crew. Half the crew works 4, 12-hour days and the other half of the crew works the next 4, 12-hour days. Workers are split (4 days on, 4 days off). This way if one crew member tests positive, only half the crew stays home for quarantine.

Wean-to-finish sites are taking multiple precautions to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 to employees.

  • Limit any unnecessary visitors.
  • Supervisors and veterinarians should plan their site visits to avoid contact with the caretakers or contract growers.
  • Reduce the size of vaccination crews and have them split up to different sites.
  • Follow social distancing.

Reduce costs

Most systems are looking at ways to reduce costs or inputs.

  • Review the usage of vaccinations, routine injectable antibiotics and feed-grade medications. Consult your SVC veterinarian before reducing any vaccinations or prevention strategies
  • Review sow-herd inventory and make sure you don’t have extra sows on the farm. There are instances where we can keep up with production but reduce the carrying cost of sows on that herd.
  • Check body condition across all herds and make sure you aren’t overfeeding sows.


More information

If you have other questions about how to deal with COVID-19 issues, visit:

National Pork Board COVID-19 resources

American Association of Swine Veterinarians COVID-19 resources

USDA APHIS Coordination Center to assist producers (affected by meat-processing plant closures)