It's a Small World - Biocontainment And More!

Biosecurity is a top concern in the livestock industry since it affects performance, economic results and can even close markets for trading when catastrophic disease occur. Excellent examples of current international biosecurity concerns include African Swine Fever (ASF), Classical Swine Fever (CSF), and Foot & Mouth Disease (FMD) that could dramatically affect export sales.

From a biosecurity perspective, bio-exclusion is the simplest way to reduce the risk of pathogens from entering the production site or even a country. The US swine industry leaders and groups are working feverishly on improved methods of monitoring and detecting major pathogens in feed stuffs and other items entering the country. Individuals within AASV, SHIC and NPB are communicating with the USDA to be prepared and hopefully detect food items that travelers are carrying from their home countries that often contain a federally reportable foreign animal disease (FAD) pathogen.

All biosecurity programs need to be practical; to encourage implementation of the plans. The most difficult aspect to implementation is ensuring that the individuals performing the daily biosecurity procedures completely understand the importance of their actions. Additionally, the individuals need to know that it is a team approach by everyone on staff and that everyone must be committed to undertaking the correct procedures each day. The understanding of the procedures is usually easily adopted, but the motivation to perform the proper procedures each day can be lacking. Every employee must embrace all aspects of the biosecurity program for successful implementation. In spite of all the training, staff meetings, educational meetings, and more, pathogens still find ways to enter a unit which reduces production. In addition, flow logistics are often changed due to health status differences.


The picture in Figure 1 shows a perimeter fence which is usually considered the first step in establishing a clean-dirty line. It is equally as important for a daily reminder that pathogens can be carried on our person so properly entering a unit has changed. The physical bench in Figure 2 is the reminder for the person entering that a “change” is about to occur. A properly managed clean – dirty line within all structures is often lacking on swine farms throughout the world. A clean – dirty line for entering any unit needs to be correctly administered to provide further “insurance” against pathogen entry into modern units.

feed bins outside of perimeter fence


Several years ago, a study was conducted to look at how people transmitted hemolytic E. coli around a unit.1 In this study, people mechanically transmitted E coli without extraordinary measures to enhance caretaker contact with pig excretions and secretions beyond that which would occur in a typical pork production unit. Hand washing and donning clean outerwear did not prevent E coli transmission. However, showering and donning clean outerwear did prevent transmission.

proper techniques using a bench entry

Dr. Will Lopez and others have established an easy non-invasive PRRSV detection method in piglets at processing time. This method is enlightening all of us on PRRSV transmission, when the prevalence rate is extremely low in the sow herd. It also has improved the author’s knowledge on the transmission of PRRSV within the confines of the farrowing area of units by employee activities. In the last few PRRSV elimination programs, mistakes have been made by employees that appeared to be associated with “moving” virus into young rooms that prolonged the elimination time. Eventually the PRRSV was eliminated in all cases with lessons learned. At the end of the day biosecurity is never stagnant, but a dynamic ongoing program that needs monitoring and frequent discussions. The science on pathogen transmission is ever evolving which means the person who is the champion for biosecurity in each unit must re-examine all programs. The key is to develop an employee culture that empowers them to come along side and work together for the best health of the unit.

The author would like to thank numerous individuals for challenging and educating him on biosecurity by participating in exercises and meetings illustrating the need to improve current traditions.


  1. Amiss, S., Halbur, P., Byrne, B., Ragland, D. et al. (2003) Mechanical transmission of enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli to weaned pigs by people, and biosecurity procedures that prevented such transmission. Journal of Swine Health and Production 11, (2): 61-68.
  2. Lopez WA, Angulo J, Zimmerman JJ, et al. Porcine reproductive syndrome monitoring in breeding herds using process fluids. Journal of Swine Health Production. 2018;26(3):146-150.

Dr. Tom Gillespie
Tom Gillespie has a lifelong involvement in the swine industry, beginning with his 4-H participation on his family’s hog and grain farm. He graduated from Purdue University with a doctor of veterinary medicine degree in 1979. In 1981, Gillespie moved to Indiana and joined as an owner in a mixed animal practice. He soon specialized in swine medicine. Gillespie obtained diplomate status with the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners in Swine Health and Management Specialty in 1989. He recertified in 2008 and again in 2017. Gillespie consults with swine operations worldwide. He is the past president of the American Association of Swine Veterinarians (AASV). He was selected as the AASV Swine Practitioner of the Year in 2010.