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Address the weakest link in PEDV biosecurity

Bioexclusion, biocontainment critical for all sow, nursery and finishing herds.

Ann Hess

February 12, 2024

5 Min Read
National Pork Board

When it comes to controlling the spread of porcine epidemic diarrhea virus, Karine Talbot says it’s all about biosecurity, which includes bioexclusion, biocontainment and biomanagement.

While bioexclusion, or the process of preventing infectious diseases from entering the barn, gets discussed the most across the swine industry, the veterinarian and director of animal health for HyLife, Ltd. says it’s just as important to focus on biocontainment—everything coming out of the barn­—and biomanagement—everything moving within a barn.

“As the saying goes ‘an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,’” Talbot says. “That is so true when it comes to disease prevention, and animal care. We see biosecurity as expensive in our industry … we need to invest in infrastructures, in people, in protocols, in trucks and truck washes, but all of that is cheaper than some of the numbers presented.”

But how strong should a site’s biosecurity be?

As Talbot points out, the bioexclusion level is often based on a risk versus impact approach. For example, boarstud, multiplier and sow barns tend to have higher levels of bioexclusion, as the impact of disease entering these herds is massive versus disease entering an all-in, all-out finishing site.

However, in pig dense-areas, Talbot questions if this level of biosecurity still makes sense? She offers an example from her home base in Manitoba, where PEDV has been quite challenging and where the pig density is high. She considers whether the finishing barn should have higher biosecurity than some of the other barns in that area, with shower-in, shower-out, and a specific trailer for market hog runs?

“What happens if they do break with PEDV? What happens to that sow barn that is at the neighbors, very close neighbor, we can almost throw a rock at it? What happens to all the other sow barns that are within very close proximity?” Talbot says. “So, I think this is a debate we need to start having and I can tell you, for us, for our system, we consider that as high risk. We don't want any disease there as much as we don't want them in our sow barn because it's a domino effect. As soon as you introduce something in that finishing barn, , the whole area goes down, and we don't want that.”

As for biocontainment, Talbot says some level must be in place before a PEDV outbreak occurs. Producers should minimize what is coming out of the barn, disinfect items coming out of the barn whenever possible, and consider where people, traffic, tools, etc. are going next.

The question then becomes what about PEDV positive pigs? Where are they going to be placed during biocontainment? Are they going to be placed near a particular barn or area?

“In my mind, PEDV is not a single herd problem, it's not a single producer problem. We're all in it together and one management decision will impact a lot of people,” Talbot says.

When it comes to successful biocontainment protocols, Talbot says producers need to assume barns have the disease, even when they think they don’t. That means all staff should be showering out, all tools and equipment should be disinfected on their way out, staff should park far from barns and pig movement needs to be thoroughly evaluated.

If disease is suspected, a stop movement of both pigs and people needs to occur, Talbot says. That stop needs to include visitors, all pickup and feed deliveries.

“As soon as we have a suspicion of an event and we're really quick on that one, we prefer to stop everything,” Talbot says. “It's about 24 hours for us to get results for PEDV so we prefer to stop everything for 24 hours, cancel loads, stop people and then we resume once it's confirmed negative and that include movement to our processing plant.”

All of HyLife’s sow, nursery and finishing sites implement the same biosecurity procedures: downtime, shower-in/shower-out, Danish entry for multi-barn sites, and specific measures for handling deadstock, transport/trailers and manure spreading.

The firm also routinely monitors PEDV. “PEDV in a finishing barn is not always obvious so one thing we do in Manitoba is proactively we test,” Talbot says. “We have two federal processing plants and the ramps are tested every day, so every day pigs are delivered, the ramps are tested for PEDV and we know with that kind of an assessment of what's going on in the industry.”

Since the province has overcome three waves of PEDV over the last couple years, HyLife is now testing high-risk areas every week, collecting diarrhea and saliva samples from finishing, nursery and sow barns. They also collect samples from the booties staff wear.

“You might say that is a lot but if we miss a case the impact of that is so much worse than spending money on a little PCR test once a week,” Talbot says.

Since Manitoba’s typical PEDV season happens in the summer, HyLife has taken additional precautions such as putting lime down near the entrances, using fabric over vents to minimize dust, implementing dust control on roadways, and investing in a parking spot/plug in shed so staff can properly change their footwear/jackets, plug in their vehicles, and then walk to the barns.

Good biosecurity is also dependent on information exchanged, Talbot says. Producers should know pigs’ health status in the area, as well as when a disease is found. For Manitoba producers, PEDV is a provincially notifiable disease.

“When we don't talk about PEDV, we talk about influenza or we talk about Seneca Valley or we talk about ASF (African swine fever), there's always something about pig health and what we can do as an industry about it,” Talbot says.

However, the veterinarian recognizes disease prevention requires constant effort, takes a lot of work and money to maintain and it is not rewarding to do. It’s also difficult to measure success and return on investment.

Biosecurity is more than just controlling what's coming into a farm, but what's coming out of your barns, she says.

“To be successful as an industry, bioexclusion and biocontainment are critical, but not just for the top of the pyramid, it's critical for all of our herds, including the finishing barn, and it's so much easier to not get PEDV when there is no PEDV in your area,” Talbot says. “Collaboration is key, we can only be as strong as our weakest link with biosecurity.”

About the Author(s)

Ann Hess

Content Director, National Hog Farmer

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