The gaping holes in HMS UK Biosecurity’s hull!

Returning from a trip to America’s pig-dense Mid West, it’s obvious that PEDv has really shaken the North American pig industry, writes John Gadd. Led by their excellent specialist pig vets, many producers there are taking a long hard look at what biosecurity really means. We need to do the same, and quick.

“But the penny has already dropped here,” you may well say. One or two biosecurity pennies may have, but there’s still a whole bagful of others. For example, the recent NPA survey revealed that four out of five British producers don’t rigorously exclude outside vehicles from broaching the pig-safe barrier – it should be 100%. That’s a big, big hole in the hull!

Biosecurity is a huge subject. There are about 40 things involved, not just pressure-washing, disinfection and keeping people out.

The Biosecurity rules don’t change much with the years, so despite the lapse of time since publication, all 40 recorded, with reasons, in my book Pig Production Problems (2003) still stand. And arguably are even more important now.

Another big hole is the fact although we cold-water pressure-wash, how many use a farm-specific detergent before applying the disinfectant? We need another NPA survey to reveal the extent of holes like this one, because even some superb approved disinfectants are not too good at destroying pathogens (including PEDv I was told) if they’re protected by a thin film of organic matter.

A hospital grade detergent for smooth surfaces isn’t man enough for the job of removing caked organic matter, and a more expensive farm-specific product is needed. A large banner in one US lecture hall shouted “A detergent is just as important as a disinfectant!”.

Too true.

And on another tack, would you allow your newborn son or daughter to be reared over an open cess pit? That’s just what we do with our piglings! Any farrowing pen and weaner nursery perforated floor should be hinged or easy to lift out out so as to be completely sanitised at all-out/all-in time. I’ve seen under-slat swab tests taken by pig vet Terry Heard from seemingly pristine- farrowing pens. They were horrendously high because the detergent used never got down there to remove enough of the “crud”.

What to do about it? Make it illegal for manufacturers not to include some form of demountable perforated floors in the young piglet accommodation they sell. I’m not for more laws from Brussels, but this one is needed, I guess. Hang the estimated 8% more expense.

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About The Author

John Gadd, who has spent 60 years' involvement in pig production, has had more than 2,800 articles about pigs published and has written three best-selling pig textbooks. With hands-on experience that includes managing a grow-out herd at 1,800ft in Banffshire, Scotland, and 20 years in the allied industries with Boots' Farm Department, RHM Agriculture and Taymix, he set up his own international pig management consultancy in the mid 1980s and has now visited more than 3,000 pig units in 33 countries as a pig management adviser. (Photo courtesy Bournemouth Daily Echo)