Since the beginning of time, humans have faced security challenges related to protecting themselves, their families and their property. Be it security against other humans, animals or the environment, each problem is mirrored by an opportunity to proactively prevent threats.
The hog industry is no stranger to this phenomenon. For us, one of the subtler yet most important considerations is that of biological agents, such as bacteria and viruses. The defense against these agents is known as “biosecurity.”
Over the years, different biosecurity threats have been met with tailored mitigation approaches. Classically, these threats have included salmonella, E.coli, porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRSS), transmissible gastroenteritis (TGE) and circovirus. More recently, we have experienced new threats, including the spread of swine delta coronavirus (SDCV) and porcine epidemic diarrhea (PED) in Canada.
Related to these diseases, since 2014, Quebec has reported 17 cases, four of which were reported so far in 2019; Ontario has reported 126 cases, including nine in 2019; and Manitoba has reported 125 cases, including 51 in 2019. Of these two diseases, only PED is present in Alberta, which has reported four cases in 2019. Considering the number of cases across the country, and given the recent uptick of PED in Manitoba, can we say we are winning the battle against these threats? Will we ever be able to defeat them completely?
Basic biosecurity principles have been understood by industry for a long time, and biosecurity practices continue to evolve to fit modern pork production. These practices include producer self-assessments, audits, veterinarian oversight, defined protocols and other tactics to protect herds. But “biosecurity” does not describe only those principles and practices—it is a culture, and producers must always be diligent when it comes to implementation.
Looking at disease outbreak cases across Canada from only even five years ago, a large part of the transmission risk was attributed to the movement of animals and products like semen; however, looking at cases in 2019, the risks have once again shifted.
Over the course of the last half decade, much of the research efforts were focused on understanding the effects of animal movements on disease transmission, given what we knew at the time. The industry began to adopt protocols based on this understanding, and these initiatives have been largely successful, but we would be remiss to think our work is done.
Almost as soon as one challenge is overcome, it seems we are faced with another. Before the 2014 outbreaks, hog transportation was not nearly as clean as it is today. Because diseases like SDCV and PED were not of concern, it was acceptable not to worry so much about contamination. Now that these diseases are present across the country, we understand the importance of cleanliness when it comes to moving animals, which is a crucial part of the equation.
The other part of that equation—manure—is an area with much room for improvement. How much manure is required to spread these diseases? How long can these diseases survive in manure pits, and what are the best methods for disposal and disinfection?
These are questions that we are working hard to answer. Other risk factors for disease transmission include feed truck cleanliness and the movement of people into controlled and restricted access zones. We cannot lower our guard in preventing contamination. Strict biosecurity protocols should be established and upheld at all times for visitors and staff, equipment and vehicles entering your farm.
Alberta Pork has been leading biosecurity work in the province since 2012. We are working hard to instill the culture of biosecurity, because we know how important this industry is to you, as a producer, and we want to ensure it stays top-of-mind, no matter what your day-to-day work has you doing. And there’s no shortage of work!
If you are interested in having Alberta Pork perform a complete biosecurity assessment free-of-charge, email Javier Bahamon, Quality Assurance and Production Manager, Alberta Pork at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 780-469-8982, toll-free at 1-877-247-PORK (7675).