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Hog Outlook: The new Wean-to-Harvest Biosecurity Program shores up areas of risk to prevent outbreaks.

Kevin Schulz, Editor

October 10, 2022

4 Min Read
Biosecurity sign at entrance to facility
STOP RIGHT THERE: Biosecurity starts at the farm gate, if not before. The health of your herd and of the entire hog industry relies on a strict biosecurity plan.Courtesy of National Pork Board

Routine can lead to monotony. Monotony can lead to slacking. Slacking can lead to lapses in judgment.

Such a progression, or digression as the case may be, can lead to mistakes. On farms and ranches, we know how a brief lapse of judgment can prove dangerous, especially during the high-pressure, time-sensitive periods of planting and harvesting.

For hog farmers, there can’t be lapses in judgment when it comes to biosecurity. Ever. And it doesn’t matter what production phase is under your roof.

Program for all pork stages

Biosecurity in the breeding herd is vital, as it is the basis the entire industry is built upon. However, that does not mean biosecurity can be ignored in other phases of production.

The Swine Health Information Center, the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research, and the Pork Checkoff are collaborating to fund a Wean-to-Harvest Biosecurity Program that will be implemented over the next two years.

According to a SHIC press release, aggregate data from its Swine Disease Monitoring Report show breeding herd breaks of porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome and porcine epidemic diarrhea tend to follow breaks in wean-to-harvest sites.

Another SHIC-funded published paper detailed how PRRS and PED-negative pigs placed on wean-to-finish sites become infected after placement. SHIC’s Rapid Response Team investigated an Actinobacillus pleuropneumoniae outbreak in the Midwest and exposed deficiencies of wean-to-harvest biosecurity in the area that contributed to the disease spread.

Farm-level biosecurity plan

Back on the farm, your entire team needs to be on the same page of the biosecurity handbook. Here are a few tips to help work through the process:

Train employees. This applies to both new employees and existing farmhands. Expressing the importance of biosecurity to the entire team is key to ensuring everyone carries out the plan.

Make frequent reminders. Weekly team meetings can be a good opportunity to stress a specific biosecurity measure. Make it a regular part of discussion. This regular reference to such measures will present the eternal importance.

Share concerns. Consider implementing the mantra from TSA in airports: “If you see something, say something.” Reporting a biosecurity breach is not snitching on a co-worker. It’s for the greater good of the barn’s herd health, and quite possibly the health of pigs and hogs in a greater geographic area.

Report breaches in a timely fashion. Report a biosecurity breach immediately, rather than waiting until the next team meeting to report it. Time is critically valuable when dealing with biosecurity and the potential spread of pathogens.

Communicate openly. If a pathogen sneaks its way in, work to keep it from spreading to other barns within the system or to neighboring operations. While communication within your own team is important to maintain your herd’s health, it is equally critical to communicate with neighboring hog producers should a disease break occur.

Maintaining a healthy herd and hog industry is important on so many different levels, and communication is key at each of those levels. Keep talking and working toward sound biosecurity plans, so that they are simply routine. Just be careful that the routine doesn’t turn into slacking.

Safeguard transportation sector

Hog transportation is a huge biosecurity issue, as there are an estimated 1 million hogs on the road every day in America.

The Swine Health Information Center established two task forces to develop researchable priorities for transport biosecurity and site bioexclusion and biocontainment.

Transportation between sites within a production system cannot be overlooked as a potential spread mode for pathogens. Also concerning is the transportation of market hogs from finishing barns to a harvest facility. On those return trips to the same finishing barn, or possibly to a different finishing barn, those trucks run the risk of bringing pathogens from the packing plant.

Controlling transportation biosecurity can be tough, but even more so when dealing with a third-party trucking company. In those cases, you need to clearly lay out the expectations that you have for hauling your hogs. If those expectations cannot be met by the trucking firm, it may be time to look elsewhere — even possibly investing in your own trucking.

Control what you can control.

Schulz, a Farm Progress senior staff writer, grew up on the family hog farm in southern Minnesota, before a career in ag journalism, including National Hog Farmer.

About the Author(s)

Kevin Schulz

Editor, The Farmer

Kevin Schulz joined The Farmer as editor in January of 2023, after spending two years as senior staff writer for Dakota Farmer and Nebraska Farmer magazines. Prior to joining these two magazines, he spent six years in a similar capacity with National Hog Farmer. Prior to joining National Hog Farmer, Schulz spent a long career as the editor of The Land magazine, an agricultural-rural life publication based in Mankato, Minn.

During his tenure at The Land, the publication grew from covering 55 Minnesota counties to encompassing the entire state, as well as 30 counties in northern Iowa. Covering all facets of Minnesota and Iowa agriculture, Schulz was able to stay close to his roots as a southern Minnesota farm boy raised on a corn, soybean and hog finishing farm.

One particular area where he stayed close to his roots is working with the FFA organization.

Covering the FFA programs stayed near and dear to his heart, and he has been recognized for such coverage over the years. He has received the Minnesota FFA Communicator of the Year award, was honored with the Minnesota Honorary FFA Degree in 2014 and inducted into the Minnesota FFA Hall of Fame in 2018.

Schulz attended South Dakota State University, majoring in agricultural journalism. He was also a member of Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity and now belongs to its alumni organization.

His family continues to live on a southern Minnesota farm near where he grew up. He and his wife, Carol, have raised two daughters: Kristi, a 2014 University of Minnesota graduate who is married to Eric Van Otterloo and teaches at Mankato (Minn.) East High School, and Haley, a 2018 graduate of University of Wisconsin-River Falls. She is married to John Peake and teaches in Hayward, Wis. 

When not covering the agriculture industry on behalf of The Farmer's readers, Schulz enjoys spending time traveling with family, making it a quest to reach all 50 states — 47 so far — and three countries. He also enjoys reading, music, photography, playing basketball, and enjoying nature and campfires with friends and family.

[email protected]

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