Ins and Outs of Good Biosecurity

By Caroline Blaken, PIC UK. Biosecurity can be split into two main areas – external and internal. However, designing a practical routine or farm set-up that can optimise security and minimise potential risks is not often as simple as it sounds.
calendar icon 11 February 2008
clock icon 6 minute read
Caroline Blaken
Caroline Blaken

The objective of external biosecurity is to maintain herd health status and avoid the entry of new pathogens. The objective of internal biosecurity is to control the distribution of the existing diseases that are on the farm and reduce their incidence where ever possible.

The main concept you need to look at carefully when implementing biosecurity is the clean/dirty concept. In biosecurity terms, your farm is the clean area and the rest of the world is the dirty area, so you need to define what is clean and what is dirty. This has to be done all around the unit – the buildings, loading bays, office and showers etc.

This concept also needs to continue through to the farm entrances. Ideally staff (and incoming pigs) will use a ‘clean’ entrance, and all other traffic will use a ‘dirty’ one. A typical example is the semen drop-off point. En route, the courier delivering the semen is likely to have 'visited' other pig farms, so the courier should be using the ‘dirty’ entrance.

Natural Barriers

Natural barriers, such as trees, might help minimise the transmission of disease by air or vectors such as flies and other insects from neighbouring farms or roads. The best trees are evergreens that are dense and grow fast

Loading Bay

Design and location should be carefully considered to ensure that any vehicles loading or unloading pigs are kept on the ‘dirty’ side of the unit. Materials used for the loading bay must be easy to clean and disinfect. Drivers should remain on the dirty side and minimise contact between themselves and farm staff. The loading bay should always be cleaned and disinfected immediately after use


Clear procedures should be displayed on entry. Where shower facilities are not available, the unit should provide an area for visitors to thoroughly wash their hands and scrub their nails and change into a protective coverall. Ensure disinfectant or antibacterial soap is provided at all times. Visitors should wear boots and overalls provided by the farm

Visitors and Parking

A visitor’s book should be signed by every one to confirm they understand and will comply with the farm’s biosecurity policy. Visitors should avoid bringing their own material such as paper and pens onto the unit. Ideally, there should be a separate car park for visitors, away from the unit

AI and Mail Drop-off

A semen and/or postal drop off point should be available and clearly identified. Where possible it should be located in an area that avoids cross-over with on-farm staff

Entrances and Roads

Ideally avoid the cross-over between ‘dirty traffic’ (hauliers, feed, deliveries, fallen stock collectors, slurry vehicles) and ‘clean traffic’ (farm and staff vehicles). Clearly defined signs and gates should be used to keep these two areas separate.

Managing Internal Biosecurity on the Unit

The key concept for biosecurity centres on 'clean' and 'dirty' areas. A practical farm layout will aid biosecurity management and help producers to maintain and optimise herd health.
There are a number of practical and management issues which should be considered here. Most relate to the production methods and routines used by stockpeople and managers.

All-in, All-out

Do you have an effective cleaning strategy? Are you washing out and disinfecting after every batch? In the farrowing pens, if you have semi-slatted floors, consider lime washing the floors or using a disinfectant powder once the area is dry.
Also, resist the temptation to keep small piglets back at weaning.

Continuous Flow

In theory, the buildings are never empty, therefore washing out and disinfecting has to be managed on an individual pen, yard or room basis

Closed Herd and Multiplication

Closing up a herd is a key element of biosecurity, as it not only minimises the risk of disease entering, but also helps to stabilise herd health. However, to maximise the full potential all aspects must be implemented correctly, such as the introduction of semen. Although fewer diseases can be spread via semen compared to the introduction of live animals, it is essential that you purchase semen from a health-controlled source

Integrated Gilt and Boar Management

If buying in breeding stock then have an appropriate isolation area for the acclimatisation of the animals into the herd. To minimise the risk of disease further, consider taking in fewer deliveries. For example taking in split weight gilts in every batch. It is critical the isolation and acclimatisation process is discussed with your vet

Pest Control

Adopt an effective pest control programme, including a baiting and inspection procedure. Ideally, an area of pebbles or gravel should be placed around buildings to prevent rodents from easy entry. Protection from birds is also wise

People Movement

Ideally, good disinfectant foot dips should be available and used outside every building. Where possible, staff should aim to move through the unit from the youngest pigs to older ones - consider work routines and plan labour resources


In extreme circumstances of poor health, a full or partial destock/restock may be worthwhile.

New Technology

Pig production advances at a phenomenal pace, bringing with it key considerations for both genetics suppliers and commercial producers. Techniques embraced by breeding companies could benefit and/or successfully implemented within commercial herds.

Semen Washing

This is a relatively new technique that minimises the presence of viruses in semen. Although commercially not available to date, PIC has been involved in many of the trials. It shows a 95.7 per cent success rate in removing PRRS virus from contaminated semen

Risk Reduction Aid

This has been used successfully by PIC in Europe. It is an advisory service helping producers implement biosecurity measures in a practical and effective way

Thermal Assisted Drying and Decontamination

This technique is used by PIC in the United States. It minimises the risk of disease by drying and decontaminating vehicles before subsequent deliveries

Marker Technology

By using marker technology, such as PICMarq, we can select genotypes for high survivability, disease resistance and robustness.

February 2008
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