Animal diseases pose serious threats to livestock farmers and veterinarians. Whether it’s a foreign disease or a long-standing endemic disease, being vigilant and protecting pig herds is a tremendous challenge. Porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDv) is a stark reminder of how lethal a new disease can be.
Although the number of new infections has greatly decreased in recent months, PEDv is still a threat to the U.S. pork industry, and colder months raise the potential for new cases to emerge. With the help of your farm veterinarian, I recommend evaluating biosecurity in two ways — externally and internally — to ensure good biosecurity practices are in place.
Critically assess activities on your farm and identify areas where the virus can enter. This can include:
• Transportation. Transportation is a key example because trucks and incoming pigs can carry the disease. Set a standard for testing or evaluating animal health upon arrival to the farm and establish good sanitation practices for incoming trucks. For feed-, propane- and manure-hauling trucks, for example, which may have visited other farms first, make sure they are following a biosecurity hierarchy, such as visiting sow farms before finishing farms. Importantly, give all employees the authority to reject trucks that are not clean.
• Employees. Help employees understand that biosecurity does not start at the farm and requires constant awareness. Employees should minimize travel to other farms or areas where livestock are kept to minimize potential risks at work. Establishing clean-dirty lines will help to ensure any exposure stops at the door. Employees should be empowered to identify risks in the name of farm safety.
• Supplies. Establish protocols for incoming supplies, such as medication or maintenance materials. This might include a disinfection procedure as well as quarantine time before bringing supplies near animals.
Internal biosecurity helps keep disease from moving around a farm. Protocols include practices such as separating new piglets from older animals that may not be clinically ill, but could be shedding some amount of virus. Setting up boot wash stations or showers within the farm is important, as are required glove changes and protocols outlining employee movement around the farm from younger to older pigs.
Vaccination plays a role in a good biosecurity program by working to minimize the impact of PEDv. It is a great way to maximize prolonged immunity while minimizing contamination. To be successful cleaning up PEDv on a farm, it’s important to get back to healthy pigs that are no longer shedding the virus or becoming infected. By helping boost immunity, producers can have more time to clean up the environment, to let the virus degrade over time and become inactive through various means. It can work to help prevent as well as expedite the process of restoring a farm to health quicker.
Building in multiple layers of biosecurity and immunity also will help to provide a safety net should one line of defense break down. It’s far better to prevent the disease from entering the herd rather than face the devastating effects of having to rid it from your farm. Take action today against PEDv.