The temperature keeps dropping, and that means PRRSv, and now PEDv, season has arrived. It can be painful to remember how hard PEDv hit the U.S. swine industry last Fall and Winter. I am keeping my fingers crossed that some herd immunity will help lessen the blow this year, but regardless I cannot stress how important it is this season to prepare for PRRS and PED.
The key to executing an effective biosecurity protocol is to always keep in mind that outside of the barn, virus is everywhere! Literally. The bottom of your shoes, your truck, in the air, and as Pipestone recently discovered, in the actual pig feed. It may seem like all odds are against you, but with proper biosecurity protocols in place, you can significantly reduce your risk of herd infection. Last year, the industry average for PEDv outbreaks was 60% of sow barns. The Pipestone System was at 25%. There is still a lot of work to be done, but the proof is in the numbers for how effective biosecurity can be. Let’s review some protocols to help protect your farms here in the Midwest.
Vaccination: Vaccinating for PRRS virus in wean to finish pigs is a key prevention strategy for reducing shed of virus into the environment. Studies have proven that the PRRS vaccination is not only very effective at reducing PRRS transmission, but it also helps improve performance, increase average daily gain (ADG), and reduce culls. It is really a win-win situation. If your grow finish performance is sub-par, work with your vet to consider boosting those pigs for mycoplasma or circovirus. There is clinical evidence that boosting for other diseases can be of benefit when you have PRRS challenge in flows.
Day to day: Remember that the virus is everywhere, and after having feed trucks, rendering trucks, and marketing trailers driving around your barn, the last thing you want to do is carry the virus in on your own feet! When you pull up to the barn, put shoe covers on before you step foot outside. And if you haven’t already, establish a clean-dirty line. Leave you dirty clothes and shoes on one side, and step into your designated barn clothes and shoes on the other side. Lastly, wash your hand thoroughly or put on latex gloves before heading in with the pigs.
Vehicle: I also highly recommend carrying some disinfectant in your vehicle to use immediately when exiting sites. Spray your floor mats, and wipe your steering wheel and hands down with disinfectant. No need to give the virus a free ride around town.
Outside contact: If people are coming to your barn, make sure you know where they’ve been, especially if they have been in contact with infected pigs. This includes your marketing trailers, manure haulers, and feed truck. For those of you that are using rendering or even composting, I emphasize minimizing the number of touches to the dead removal area. During the cooler seasons, coordinate them a couple times a week at the end of the day so you don’t have to go back in with the pigs immediately after. For manure hauling, don’t rely on them to come in and adjust your ventilation. They could potentially be tracking the virus on their shoes into your office five to ten times that day.
Loading: When working with marketing trailers, the protocol for loading the pigs is critical. Truckers should never step off the trailer into your chute, and the producer should never step onto the trailer. Ask your trucker to enter their trailer through a side door, and not through the back end in your chute. And as hard as it may be, try to eliminate pigs going into the trailer and back into the barn so they are not potentially carry the virus back in and out, thus contaminating both sides. I always recommend producers use barn lime in chutes. Not only does this help with traction, but it may also work to kill viruses in the environment. Another great product we recently discovered is Traffic cop, which is a dry bleach mix that has been proven to kill PEDv within ten minutes of contact. Mix barn lime and traffic cop together in front of the last ten feet into the building for extra protection.
These practices require a lot of extra time and work, but the positive is that there is a lot you can do when managing your barn to help minimizing your herd’s risk of PRRS and PED infection. In this high risk season, there couldn’t be a better time to fine tune your biosecurity protocols. Contact your veterinarian for help developing a biosecurity plan right for your farm.
Dr. Joel Nerem serves as the Director of Health at Pipestone Veterinary Services focusing on biosecurity. For questions, contact him at 507.825.4211 or firstname.lastname@example.org.