Biosecurity on Swine Farms in 4 Steps and ASF Precaution Tips

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Managing health is not necessarily high-tech: applying common sense and regular routine into working practices on the farm go a long way to ensuring success. Here are four steps to establishing robust biosecurity on your site.

Four steps to establish biosecurity  

  1. Define the farm’s health status
  2. Eliminate vertically transmitted diseases
  3. Keep out infection
  4. Implement a vaccination program

Getting started

The starting point is to define or establish the health status of the farm, which must be the highest possible in relation to the local environment, epidemiology and proximity of other farms. Disease pathogens that can be transmitted from the mother, such as Mycoplasma, Porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus (PRRSv) and Actinobacillus Pleuropneumonia (APP), must be eliminated when starting a pig production enterprise. The focus should then move to biosecurity programs to try to keep out infections that are hard to eliminate. Finally, robust vaccination programs should be implemented against pathogens that cannot be eliminated:  E. coli K88/F18, Lawsonia intracellularis, PCV-2, PRRSV, Streptococcus and Haemophilus.

Unit location

If possible, the farm should be located in a swine-free area, at least six kilometers from any other swine unit. Some pathogens can survive outside the pig for 4 days (PRRSv) to 18 months in the case of African swine fever virus (ASFv). Bacillus anthracis can persist indefinitely in the ground, and some pathogens can travel with dust particles or aerosol droplets, from a few meters (APP, Pasteurella, Mycoplasma hyopneumoniae and M. hyosynoviae, Haemophilus, Streptococcus), to 3 km (SIV, PRCV) or 5 km (PRRSV), and even up to 9 km (Aujeszky’s disease virus, foot and mouth disease virus). Air filtration can be essential in areas with a high density of pigs.


Animal housing should have good quality flooring and installations, and good environmental conditions (ventilation, temperature). Density levels (m2 and m3 allowances) must be respected, and an all-in/all-out system implemented by room, with cleaning and disinfection between batches. Separate accommodation must be provided for sick animals.

Figure 1. A ‘Danish entry’ system
Figure 1. A ‘Danish entry’ system

Where possible, there should be a dedicated changing room where this can be done. The visitor should then shower and dress in garments provided by the farm. Any equipment entering the farm should preferably be new and must be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected before entry (UV radiation). Materials must be of a good quality, and easy to clean and maintain.

Internal biosecurity

Internal biosecurity requires dedicated people, equipment (buckets, brushes, shovels, etc.) and clothing of different colors for every section: gilts, sows, nurseries and finishing. Never cross animal paths or work paths, and always change or clean boots at a boot wash station when exiting the work area and after entering the sick bay.


Disinfectants are to be used only after cleaning, as few have a detergent action (proxygen compounds, iodophors, quaternary ammonium compounds or QAC). There are many categories: chlorine-based, peroxygen, unchlorinated phenol, chlorinated phenol, iodophors and QAC. Priority should be given to the safest, most effective, product. For example, peroxygen compounds can be safely used as aerosols: they are non-corrosive and detergent, and work in the presence of organic matter. They act quickly and effectively against bacteria and viruses, leave no residues, do not stain, are non-toxic or non-irritant  and are suitable for footbaths.


Determination of the infection risk according to the epidemiology of the local area will form the basis for a vaccination schedule. Some vaccines are chosen to directly protect the sows and stimulate immunity to protect the piglets through the colostrum (parvovirus, leptospira, erysipelas, Salmonella, Lawsonia intracellularis, Mycoplasma, SIV, PRRSv) and some are provided directly to the piglets (SIV, E. coli, Clostridium perfringens types A and C, PRRSv, rotavirus, Mycoplasma, PCV2, APP, etc.). The timing depends on the disappearance of maternal immunity and how early the infection occurs or disease signs appear. As vaccination will never provide 100% protection, biosecurity and good management practice remain essential.

African Swine Fever

Recently, African Swine Fever (ASF) outbreaks in numerous countries have created serious cause for concern throughout the swine industry. The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) has issued an awareness campaign to highlight general precautions that pig producers can take to limit the risk of spreading ASF.
General precautions from OIE for commercial farmers:

  • Declare any suspicious case (dead or alive) to the Veterinary Services
  • Ensure that all your workers and visitors are aware of biosecurity rules
  • Clean and disinfect material and equipment coming in or out
  • Prevent direct or indirect contact with wild boar. Implement quarantine measures for new pigs on farm
  • Do not feed untreated swill or kitchen scraps containing meat to your pigs
Figure 2. Precautions against African Swine Fever | Source: OIE
Figure 2. Precautions against African Swine Fever |  Source: OIE