Maschhoff Memo: Biosecurity Is Critical in Winter

January 25, 2018 07:10 AM

As we withstand winter, biosecurity should be at the forefront of everyone’s mind. Why do we get concerned this time of year? There are a few reasons:

  1. Viruses such as influenza and porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS) virus survive better in cold, wet weather (i.e. fall and winter). They are killed more easily via hot temperatures and drying during summer.  
  2. Pigs are under additional stresses when weather changes. This makes them more susceptible to disease due to ventilation changes, ammonia levels in barns, temperature swings and pit pumping. 
  3. Couple No. 1 and No. 2 together, and an “epidemic threshold” is hit where the disease level is so high it can potentially overwhelmsthe general population of pigs. If you look at the graph, below left, showing the prevalence of PRRS on average, you can see we reach over the red line each year in about the middle of October to the middle of November. The threshold level signals high risk for new infections both to PRRS and other diseases. 

What is the value of biosecurity to your operation?

Simply put, without proper biosecurity, it’s unlikely that any operation can be successful long term. Just the sheer estimated impact of PRRS alone was estimated as $664 million in 2012 (Holtkamp et al, 2012). That doesn’t even include devastating diseases such as porcine epidemic diarrhea virus that good biosecurity measures can help keep out.

Here Are Your Options

So what can you do to control these factors? Focus on exactly that—what you can control. The biggest points of control are your clean/dirty lines. This is anywhere you can clearly delineate where someone enters the farm. Put a practice in place to reduce entrance of disease. in these areas. Most commonly, these would be:

  • Entrance into the farm – shower in/out, change of boots/clothing, etc.
  • Entrance of supplies – pass-through window, fume (fumigation) room.
  • Animal movement – loading/unloading of animals.
  • Mortality removal.


Look at the pictures above. You can see “glow germ,” which is meant to simulate a disease such as PRRS, crossing the clean/dirty line. It was placed on the clean side of a changing bench, and you can watch how it moved on peoples’ feet to the dirty side of the shower. Without a shower, this would have moved the disease directly into the farm! This particular farm executed the shower-in process well, so employees prevented the glow-dust from moving in. 

For those who don’t execute showers, a virus or bacteria can walk right in on your bare feet as you change boots. With the large amount of variation throughout pork production systems, be sure to work with your herd veterinarian to determine your best options. Learn how you can improve your biosecurity today: The health of your pigs depends on it.   

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