Managing feed contamination for enhanced biosecurity

Biosecurity will continue to be the major focus of pig production on a global scale.

We can put numerous safeguards in place against transporting pathogens onto the farm (by the way, this is something taken very seriously by Chinese pig producers). But we often forget other elements of biosecurity on the farm, elements that we can easily control.

I must highlight the importance of delivery vehicles.
We can – and should – require suppliers of all consumables to ensure their vehicle has been cleaned and disinfected, with no pig contact for 72 hours.
Wheel washes should be in place and functioning for vehicles entering the farm, and we can create airlocks for misting disinfectant onto visitors.

Don’t forget, foot dips and hand wash points sited between rooms and departments are all part of good housekeeping. An often-overlooked area is the hygiene protocol required to minimise pathogenic contamination of the feed and water systems.

As we continue to push towards improved efficiency and a reduction or elimination of antibiotics, we have to consider both the obvious routes for contamination as well as the not-so-obvious

While we have a plethora of feeding systems available for use on a pig farm, from barrow feeding pellets to fully automated liquid feeding systems, there is an array of pathogens we need to be aware of and address. Most of them are hidden within the system.
If hot pellets are delivered into cold bulk bins, it creates moisture, leading to mould and further mycotoxin contamination of the feed – even though the feed itself arrived clean.

The same can happen to raw materials, such as rapeseed meal or wheat feed meal. It is therefore important to regularly clean feed bins and treat them with organic acid powders to kill moulds and yeasts.

Feed spillages, wastage or open hoppers in empty pens will attract birds and rodents and can lead to contamination from the likes of salmonella, avian TB and dysentery, so it is vital to keep waste to a minimum.

Giving staff a friendly reminder about the cost of wasted feed acts as an added incentive to maintain cleaning routines.
Liquid feeding systems are prone to contamination. Micro-organisms thrive on feed nutrients, warmth and moisture. Some co-products arriving on farm may still be hot, particularly from wheat processing and bioethanol production, with enough heat for microbiological growth.

It’s easy to ignore, but dust gathering on the surfaces of the mixing tanks can easily provide a home for many micro-organisms. Pressure-washing all surfaces and regularly running a hypochlorite or acid through the feed lines will help to reduce the chance of contamination.

As we continue to push towards improved efficiency and a reduction or elimination of antibiotics, we have to consider both the obvious routes for contamination, as well as the not-so-obvious.

Any challenge on the pig’s immune system from external factors can leave them less able to cope with disease. Hygiene of the feed and water systems is an essential part of biosecurity.

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About The Author

Dr Phil Baynes has spent his career in pig welfare and nutrition. Based in Cheshire, he runs Baynes Nutrition and is a consultant nutritionist to Provimi.