A Review of Biosecurity Methods

This article stresses on the importance of maintaining biosecurity on the farm. "A mixture of attitude, routine communication and a little common sense should be a part of biosecurity rules and procedures that can be easily maintained on a farm," writes Beth Ferry, Aoe pork educator from Cassopolis.
calendar icon 16 December 2009
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Biosecurity are rules and procedures that are implemented to protect the health of our herds and to avoid the entry of a new disease on our farm. These rules and procedures should be the most straight forward protocols on the farm, and they are also the hardest to teach and maintain. The key element of biosecurity is to train yourself and your employees to be aware of the risks of introducing a new disease to your farm and to manage those risks accordingly.

A mixture of attitude, routine communication and a little common sense should be a part of biosecurity rules and procedures that can be easily maintained on a farm. We need to be able to understand ourselves and teach employees how to grasp the importance of these different protocols. All employees must understand an important basic principle. This principle is that when a disease outbreak occurs, the efficiency of the pigs worsen, the work load increases and the farm will incur a decrease in profitability. A full understanding of this principle is needed to ensure that proper biosecurity protocols are put into place and followed.

In order to maintain correctness and efficiency of your biosecurity protocols, you need to clearly define each protocol and complete audits or checks of your system. This will allow all people involved in the farm to have a clear understanding of what is expected of them on a daily basis. It is very important that upper management and owners/operators also adhere to these protocols, setting an example and maintaining a standard for all employees. The following article reviews some of the basic principles of a biosecurity system.


Location can be thought of as the single most important factor when trying to maintain the herd health on your farm. We understand that placing farms as far away from other farms is a great idea; yet we also have to be practical and cost effective when siting our locations.

Ideally, one would look for a site that is approximately two miles from any other swine herd, minimising the risk of aerosol spread, vehicle crossover and insect exchange (Reicks, 2008).

When looking for a location, we also have to give value to the topography of the area. Hills and trees break up wind flow patterns and may be able to disperse any virus that is traveling through the air.

Finally, when siting a facility you need to look at the general make up and logistics of the area that you wish to place your facility in. It helps to check for major roadways that might have pig traffic and the number of other facilities in the area that might employ people on their farm, increasing the instance of people mingling and spreading disease.

Pig Source

A second component in a biosecurity matrix is the source of your pigs. Stocking your facility with animals from the same source herd is your best chance at controlling the introduction of new disease in your herd. This allows you to minimize the possibility of bringing in new strains of disease or compromising the health of your animals when bringing in replacement gilts or boars. Studies have shown that herds that purchase stock from more than one supplier in a year are three times more likely to become infected with Mycoplasma hyopneumoniae than herds which purchase from a single source (Amass, 2006).

This idea also applies to your source of semen. When introducing new genetics into your herd, some farms purchase semen collected at an off-site boar stud. While this gives you the opportunity to select from many different genetics, it also opens up your facility to the chance of disease introduction. Constant communication with your veterinarians, routine testing at the boar stud and understanding the specifications for each facility are required to minimise the risk of disease introduction and to maintain a good herd health status.

A final key to the pig source component of biosecurity is utilising an isolation/acclimation unit for your facility. These facilities can be housed off-site or as an attached facility. These units should have strict entrance/exit protocols and have the same general biosecurity standards as the rest of the facility. Replacements gilts and boars enter into the facility through this unit and remain there until no clinical signs of a virus are seen and appropriate testing of the replacement animals have been done. In Biosecurity Protocols for the Prevention of Spread of Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome Virus, authors suggest a 30-day time-frame for incoming replacement stock to be kept in isolation (Pitken et al., 2006). Employees should complete the tasks in this area at the end of the day and avoid returning to the main farm after a visit to the isolation/acclimation unit.

The sharing of air space or pits between units is not advised. Once an animal has been housed in the unit for a pre-determined amount of time, no clinical signs are observed, communication with the source herd has found no problems and all tests have returned negative the group is then cleared to move to the home unit.


Employees or visitors to different swine facilities can also be seen as a vehicle for disease transmission between herds. In general, it is asked of employees to avoid contact with other pigs, this includes county fairs, other pig barns, sale barns, slaughter plants, petting zoos, diagnostic labs and other areas where pigs are housed (Reicks, 2008). If an employee does come into contact with a pig from another herd, it is suggested that they utilised a ‘down-time’ protocol, which requires people to be away from pigs for a pre-determined amount of time. For most facilities, the suggested down-time is two nights away from any other source of pigs. The down-time requirement changes with each phase of production and the health status of the facility.

When entering into a facility, people still play a large part in maintaining the herd health of a unit. If the unit has shower in/shower out facilities, employees and visitors are asked to remove footwear in the initial entryway of the farm in order to gain access to the farm. From here, they are asked to proceed to the dirty side of the shower, removing their clothes, undergarments and jewellery. All people looking to gain entrance into the farm are required to thoroughly shower and shampoo and enter the clean side of the shower, where fresh clothing and boots await them. From here, they may gain entrance to the farm.

In farms where there are no shower facilities available, employees and visitors are still asked to follow biosecurity measures. It is important to change into clean outerwear, including boots, when entering the barn. Employees and visitors are also asked to wash their hands prior to entering the facility. If clean boots are not available, proper biosecurity protocols would be to scrub the boot, removing all faecal and other organic matter and to effectively disinfect the boots utilising a clean boot bath or individual disinfectant methods (Reicks, 2008). Another option for footwear in barns without shower facilities is to use plastic disposable boots or to designate boots for each barn.


The everyday operation of a swine facility requires the movement of many different vehicles to complete different tasks that occur. When vendors are servicing a general area, it is important to maintain constant communication about expectations and protocols. It is expected that service vehicles will follow a biosecurity matrix that requires them to go to the herds with the highest health status first, so as not to continually spread disease or introduce new virus to other herds.

When limiting the amount of vehicles that enter your farm you may be able to incorporate some considerations with your service venders.

  • Have supplies delivered to an off-site location or to the base of the farm premises. Farm employees can then shuttle supplies into the facility.
  • Keep dumpsters and trash receptacles away from your facility. Placing these in an area on the outer portion of your location will minimise these vehicles at your facility, especially if they are servicing other farms in your area.
  • Talk to your electric company to see if they will read the meter remotely, allow farm personal to read it or to prioritise the meter reading at your farm, before other farms are read.


As mentioned before, the delivery of supplies should be limited to your farm. Off-site delivery systems can be used to decrease a source of contamination (Reicks, 2008). Supplies should be moved onto a farm though a fumigation room or at the very least, inspected to ensure that everything is clean and dry. If possible, allow supplies to sit overnight in a pass-through room before moving into the storage area. Supplies can also be sprayed or wiped down with a disinfectant prior to entering the farm. It is also suggested that supplies not be shared between farms and each individual farm be responsible for their own inventory and ordering.


Although different biosecurity protocols can easily be implemented on each farm, it is difficult to assess how well each method is working. Audits of your system help provide feedback and help you gain a better understanding of how your employees function with different biosecurity standards. “Audits are necessary because nothing remains static on a hog farm. Production procedures change over time and so do employees” (Vansickle, 2007). Simply asking routine visitors to your site, such as veterinarians, feed truck drivers, UPS delivery people about their experience and noting when a protocol has been breached will go along way in maintaining the herd health on your farm. “An audit is an internal working document that provides a yearly report card of where farms are at on biosecurity. This in turn will help you determine the root causes of the problem including: inadequate training, lack of supply, equipment, weather, neglect, procedure modification or others” (Vansickle, 2007).

Biosecurity protocols should be implemented on your farm, based on a risk assessment for each individual farm. In order to maintain a high level of herd health, efficiency and profitability, a structured biosecurity system must be put into place. The success of this system largely depends on personnel compliance and an adequate training program. Another resource that plays a big part in incorporating and maintaining biosecurity standards is your farm’s veterinarian. This person can be seen as a source of scientific information, instructor of biosecurity protocols and auditor on your farm. Maintaining a set of biosecurity rules not only reduces the perceived risk of introducing or spreading disease, they also help to maintain herd health over an extended period of time.


Amass, S.F. 2006. Biosecurity – Practical Applications. Proceedings from The North American Veterinary Conference. 306–308.

Pitkin, A., S. Otake, S. and S. Dee. 2006. Biosecurity Protocols for the Prevention of Spread of Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome Virus. University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine, Swine Disease Eradication Center.

Reicks, D.L. 2008. PRRS Eradication: How to Apply Current Biosecurity Research. Proceedings from The North American Veterinary Conference. 356–360.

Vansickle, J. 2007. Audit Allow for Added Scrutiny. National Hog Farmer. 15 June 2007.

December 2009
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