Biosecurity: Preventing the Spread of Disease on Small Pig Farms in Ontario
Biosecurity is any action that serves to protect people, animals and the environment from infectious disease, pests, and other biological threats.
It includes the proactive steps taken to keep a disease out of a farm (e.g. having visitors wear plastic boots over their shoes before entering your farm), and the actions taken to prevent the spread of pathogens between groups of animals on the same farm (e.g. feeding and caring for healthy animals first then handling animals in the sick pen).
Larger swine farms include a shower-through facility in order to reduce the chance of disease entering their herd. The key principles of a biosecurity plan are segregation and cleaning.
Segregation is the application of barriers to limit the risk of exposing healthy animals to disease. For example, you should keep newly purchased livestock in a different barn, away from the rest of the established herd, until you are sure they are healthy and acclimatized to your farm.
For cleaning to be effective in preventing the spread of disease, organic matter must be removed (e.g. scrape and wash manure off boots or equipment prior to disinfecting), washed, disinfected and dried. Specific actions for good biosecurity for small scale pig production are listed below:
Example of a farm biosecurity sign.
- Farm owners and workers should have separate clothing and footwear for working around pigs or in the barn. These should be kept at the barn entrance.
- Use hand sanitizer or wash your hands with soap and warm water before entering and after leaving livestock areas.
- Work with the youngest animals first as they are more susceptible to diseases, then move to working with older animals that have a stronger immune system.
Introducing New Stock:
- Avoid purchasing stock from markets and auctions. The best practice is to buy animals from a single source with a known health status.
- Before purchasing new animals, if possible have your veterinarian speak to the seller’s veterinarian regarding herd health.
- Have a quarantine area available for animals new to the farm. A quarantine is a restriction on the movement of animals and is intended to help prevent the spread of illness or disease. The area should be a separate area or building to prevent any opportunity for recently purchased animals to spread disease to the existing herd.
- Keep new livestock in quarantine for three to four weeks. This will allow time for a proper assessment of health and recuperation from transport or illness.
- While animals should be monitored closely from day one of arrival and keeping in mind that you may want to run tests closer to the start, at the end of the quarantine period, observe animals for any abnormal behaviour and signs of disease before introducing these animals to the herd. Your veterinarian may test your new pigs for certain diseases at the beginning of the quarantine period or before mixing into the existing herd. Animals should be monitored closely while they are in the quarantine period. They should be observed for any changes in behavior or signs of illness.
Water and Feed:
- At least annually, water should be tested where pigs drink to ensure its suitability for livestock production.
- Design and position water bowls, troughs and waterers to reduce fecal contamination.
- Feed or feed ingredients should be purchased from reputable sources.
- Keep feed pest-free and dry, cover feed bins and feed systems to reduce the chance of contamination from wildlife or rodents.
Housing, Equipment and Yard Maintenance:
- Pens should be completely emptied, cleaned and disinfected at least annually.
- All equipment that comes into direct contact with pigs should be cleaned and disinfected periodically, including feeders and waterers. Check that feeders and waterers are functioning properly on a daily basis.
- It is best to have dedicated equipment for use with your pigs only. If sharing equipment with other farms, be sure to clean, disinfect and dry the equipment before using on your farm.
- Insects, rodents, birds and pets can carry disease to pigs on their feet, fur or feathers and contaminate feed with their feces. Reduce the risk by:
- Keeping feed in tightly closed containers and clean up spilled feed
- Keeping area around pens free of debris
- Cutting the grass regularly around bans, pens and enclosures
- Use traps and bait as necessary for pests and rodents and keep pets out of the barn. If using bait, ensure both the blocks that are out in the barn and those stored for future use are not accessible to pigs, pets or children. University of Nebraska has further information about bait and bait stations.
- Inspect boundary fences regularly and repair as needed. Wild animals can introduce new diseases to your farm. Escaped pigs can spread disease to neighbouring herds or be attacked by predators. Gates on laneways prevent unwanted visitors to your barn.
- Contact your herd health veterinarian when livestock appear sick or are growing poorly. Pigs that die should be examined by a veterinarian to determine cause of death and decide if further control measures are needed.
- Vaccinate as recommended by your veterinarian (keeping the necessary records).
- Pigs on pasture can be affected by internal parasites (worms), predators, sunburn, or heat stroke. Speak to your veterinarian about a plan for the control of parasites. A plan for the control of parasites and predators as well as shelter to provide shade and adverse weather protection is required for outdoor pigs under the Codes of Practice.
- Keep records of treatments and veterinary care.
- Work with your veterinarian to create a plan for deadstock disposal either on or off the farm.
- Ensure that during handling or storage for deadstock pick-up that there is minimal exposure of the dead animals to other livestock or contamination of water sources or the environment with potential pathogens.
- Clean and disinfect all equipment used to move deadstock from the barn or pens.
- Dispose of all deadstock within 48 hours of its death or immediately if it begins to decompose before 48 hours have passed. Deadstock may also be stored in cold storage for up to 14 days and in frozen storage for up to 240 days before disposal. View OMAFRA Deadstock Disposal Factsheet.
- Manure should be removed from the production area regularly.
- Farms should have a manure management plan that includes collection, storage, moving and spreading of manure to minimize chance of spreading disease and contaminating the water sources*
- Tools and equipment used for manure handling should not be used for feed or bedding.
- Post signs on entrance doors and at the laneway regarding your biosecurity protocols for visitors. For example, ‘Stop-restricted access zone-no unauthorized visitors-Contact:’ Ontario Pork or many feed companies will provide these signs free of charge.
- Create a visitor biosecurity protocol with your veterinarian.
- All visitors must follow the farm’s biosecurity protocol. Including parking in a designated area, signing into a visitors log** and wearing clean or farm provided boots and coveralls.
- Visitors should be accompanied by farm staff.
There are National Biosecurity Standards for most livestock commodities. The National Swine Farm-Level Biosecurity Standard Guidelines are a good place to start when developing a biosecurity plan for your farm.
* The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) has information that helps to determine when a farm is big enough to require a formal Nutrient Management Plan, which depending on the size of the pigs could be as few as 15. For more information, check out their Nutrient Management Fact Sheet.
**OMAFRA has a biosecurity log book that is available to producers. To receive a copy, contact the Agriculture Information Contact Centre at 1-877-424-1300 or firstname.lastname@example.org
If you have questions or need further information please contact the Industry and Member Services Team at Ontario Pork. For more information contact:
Ontario Pork Industry & Member Services