Ensuring Biosecurity

Three industry professionals weigh in on the role of biosecurity and logistics in decision making.

When it comes to decision making within the swine industry, there are a lot of factors to consider. In this mix of competing priorities, biosecurity and logistics can sometimes take a backseat to topics like genetics, markets or technology. It can be easier to focus on the more enjoyable decisions that need to be made for your farm than it is to address the issues that take more planning to address.

So this year, we reached out to some experts in fields of biosecurity and logistics, and asked them for insight into the types of decisions they make on a regular basis.

Why are these issues important today and in the future for their companies? What kinds of data are they tracking and analyzing to help them make decisions in their operations?

In this short series, you’ll learn from industry professionals with decades of combined experience in the fields of biosecurity and logistics.

First, Jer Geiger, a veterinarian with a genetic supplier, explains why high biosecurity standards are important to long-term improvements. Next, Angie Hurst, vice-president of a livestock trucking company, shares how this sector takes great care in protecting the health of the pigs that it carries, all while considering future cargo. Finally, Chet Mogler, an Iowa producer, highlights how his team successfully manages and maintains the health of their sows.

What health and biosecurity mean to a genetic supplier

By Jer Geiger

The primary roles of a genetic supplier are to provide a superior genetic product for customers today and to ensure sustainable genetic progress for the future. At the slat level, the assignment is to deliver healthy genetic improvement, load after load, year after year.

Genetic potential takes center stage, separating one provider from another, but animal health plays a powerful supporting role. It is difficult to capture genetic advantages when disease issues restrict performance.

Since genetic improvement is a long-term process, a genetic supplier’s health strategies must also be focused years into the future.

Simply stated, biosecurity is the sum of all tools, activities and processes that together sustain health and prevent the introduction of an economically significant disease.

To be effective, biosecurity must become a philosophy, a mindset and a manner of conducting business every day that prevents the entry of pathogens into the operation.

Whether people, pigs or materials enter or leave the farm, every process and activity should be considered as a potential risk to herd health.

No doubt, biosecurity requires an investment of time and resources. Some people may say biosecurity is inconvenient. But we argue that, if biosecurity is not inconvenient, it is not being done correctly. The payback to this work is sustainability and business continuity.

In that context, health and biosecurity become the responsibility of each employee, from the entry-level caretaker to the chief operating and financial officers. The full team is responsible not only for the health of its farms and contract multiplier farms, it must also ensure that no new economically significant pathogens enter a customer’s farm through the delivery of breeding stock or semen. Transportation takes center stage in the delivery of healthy genetics.

Transport biosecurity is a key component of animal movements within the production pyramid, deliveries to genetic customers and transfer of byproduct animals. Transport biosecurity should also encompass feed deliveries, as well as the removal and disposal of effluent and dead stock.

The swine industry is not stagnant and it continues to face new challenges. The sector needs progress, innovation and change to keep pace and stay ahead of new production strategies and new or evolving health considerations. Those changes must be focused, controlled and science-based, not undertaken simply for their own sakes.

To effectively and efficiently succeed in the safe delivery of healthy genetics, companies must look both internally and to the world around for new ideas, tools and strategies. Many examples exist.

Jer Geiger
Jer Geiger grew up on a small family farm in Illinois. He obtained his doctorate of veterinary medicine and master of science from the University of Illinois. He worked as a private veterinary practitioner for eight years and has worked for PIC for over two decades. As a health assurance veterinarian, he has consulted in more than 20 countries. Geiger considers his greatest accomplishment to be his family: his wife Becky, daughter Rachael and son Nicholas.

PIC (Pig Improvement Company) is the global leader in pig genetics. PIC provides genetically high-quality breeding stock to pig producers and supports with technical services to help them realize the genetic potential on the farm. PIC's goals are to make our customers the most successful producers and to maximize profits for the pork chain. More information can be found at pic.com.

Trucking companies play a key role in biosecurity

By Angie Hurst

Luckhart Transport Ltd., a family-owned livestock trucking company, always tries to stay one step ahead of the needs and demands of the industry. We offer our customers a high level of biosecurity, including dedicated equipment, specialized trailers, a full-serve mechanical shop, and wash and dry bays that run 24-hours a day.

While we do everything within our capabilities to prevent a disease outbreak, we also believe we always need to be prepared for the worst-case scenario and ensure that we have a plan in place to address any challenges.

A lot has changed between our beginnings in 1951 and today. The industry is transporting animals longer distances than they have ever been moved before and the biosecurity needs of our customers have also drastically changed. For example, 98 percent of our swine customers require some level of truck washing before transport companies enter their properties, which can create friction between logistics and heard health.

On a daily basis, we have trucks cross paths but it is imperative to put the health status of our customers before location logistics. What makes sense geographically simply will not work for biosecurity. Without proper biosecurity protocols in place, my customers would quickly be out of business … and so would my company.

We have successfully prevented disease transmission by monitoring all of our equipment, and classifying each pick and drop location as low-, medium- or high-risk areas. We handle the equipment and drivers according to these classifications. We have to consider past, present and future loads, as they are pieces to the larger puzzle.

pig in transport

As a livestock transporter, it is our responsibility to figure out how to move animals comfortably from point A to point B while adhering to the regulations set out by our customer, the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario, the U.S. Department of Transportation, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. We rely on specialized equipment to ensure we can meet these demands.

We have extensive record keeping within our wash and dry bays. We record dates, times, length of washes, temperature readings, etc., and keep wash records for a minimum of six months. Recently, the University of Saskatchewan came to our facility to monitor our dry bay. The researchers measured surface temperatures of the livestock trailers while they were being heated and dried to ensure that we are doing what is needed to kill all pathogens.

We believe there is always room to improve. We also believe we always need to check up on our practices to ensure that we are doing what it takes to stay ahead of the game.

Our system automatically cali¬brates chemicals for our wash staff and a third-party chemical company monitors the system to ensure prop¬er dilution and application rates. A lot of science shapes trailer-washing procedures and it is not as simple as one may think.

Communication between industry partners is key and I believe the future of the swine industry looks very promising.

Angie Hurst
Angie Hurst (Luckhart) started cleaning transport trailers at the age of 12 and has been active in the family business ever since. She is now the vice-president of Luckhart Transport Ltd., and manages trucking and biosecurity for the company. Hurst is very passionate about the humane transportation of animals and ensuring proper biosecurity practices.

Luckhart Transport Ltd. is a third-generation family-owned livestock trucking company based in southwestern Ontario. The family established the business in 1951 and it has constantly evolved with the industry. Luckhart Transport Ltd. specializes in high health livestock movements.

The company is dedicated to providing quality service to its customers, as well as pursuing humane transportation options.

Making herd improvements through data and system integration

Pig Hill, a sow operation located in Alvord, Iowa, has used PigCHAMP software for herd management for over 25 years. Now, we are working towards tighter integration of the PigCHAMP herd statistics with our building ventilation and feed systems.

We are striving for such integration to gain further insights into our biosecurity and health management, as well as our feed ordering and logistics planning.

Every day, we capture and update every animal event, such as vaccine treatments, farrowing data and location changes, through the use of PigCHAMP. We are integrating this data with real-time environment, feed consumption and operator information.

We are confident that this approach will enable us to further optimize our animal health and biosecurity protocols.

We can create reports from all of these systems, using real-time data, to make better herd decisions.

piglet feeding

For example, we review daily location and feed consumption data to determine which animals have not consumed their diets and therefore might need attention. The feed data comes from our electronic sow feeding program, while the location data comes from PigCHAMP. We combine the power of two systems to access important information with practical implications.

Realizing the potential of these systems, our vision does not stop there. We believe the data from all systems (environment, feed, animal health, etc.) can be integrated to generate daily reports. We could track, for example, room temperature trends with piglet age and room inventories, auto-generated feed delivery schedules, and cull animal schedules.

We are also interested in analyzing internal biosecurity suggestions based on individual barn or room health. Our systems enable us to capture internal biosecurity trends to understand how well we handle internal movements.

We also examine external factors impacting our biosecurity. We log trucks and trailers entering the premises. Using this data, we can gain confidence, or see the mistakes we make, in transportation biosecurity. As we integrate PigCHAMP information with other data points, our system will enable us to achieve the industry goals of better herd health and performance with a smaller carbon footprint and lower antibiotic use.

We always think about building on our strengths and PigCHAMP’s software is a solid foundational tool that helps us to successfully manage our operation. Thus, we continue to look for solutions that we can integrate to build upon this foundation.

Chet Mogler
In 2009, Chet Mogler graduated from a community college with a degree in ag business and returned to the family business. He began managing the 900- sow farm in 2010. In 2015, Mogler worked alongside his family to build a new 4,400-head sow farm. Mogler supervises daily operations at the sow farm and assists the other operations as needed. Chet and his family enjoy spending time together on their acreage near the farm.

Pig Hill is part of a fourth-generation diversified family farm. In 1976, Howard Mogler, a second-generation crop and cattle farmer, looked to the swine industry for an opportunity to bring his sons into the family business. This decision led to the construction of a 230-head sow farm. Over the years, the Mogler family has expanded its swine operation. In 2015, the family constructed a “state-of-the-art” 4,400-head sow farm, adopting the latest technologies, advancements and efficiencies.