Meat & Livestock News

Evaluating Biosecurity Progress in the U.S. Pork Industry


  • Despite increased biosecurity measures, the U.S. pork industry faces challenges in improving pig health, with high incidences of disease outbreaks.
  • Experts emphasise the importance of effective biosecurity practices, from farm design to outbreak investigations, to protect against disease.
  • The industry is encouraged to adopt a multi-layered approach to biosecurity, focusing on simple, sustainable measures and incentivising good practices.

In the realm of U.S. pork production, the question of whether biosecurity efforts are advancing yields a complex answer, according to Derald Holtkamp, DVM, a professor at Iowa State University. Speaking at the American Association of Swine Veterinarians’ annual meeting, Holtkamp distinguished between the quantity of biosecurity actions and their effectiveness.

Despite an uptick in practices like trailer washing and mandatory showers, the anticipated improvement in pig health remains elusive, with diseases like the porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus and porcine epidemic diarrhoea virus maintaining a strong presence.

Holtkamp’s insights reveal a concerning trend: the health of pigs is not showing signs of improvement, as evidenced by persistent disease outbreaks and rising wean-to-market mortality rates. This situation underscores a significant gap in biosecurity outcomes, suggesting that critical vulnerabilities are yet to be addressed.

The seminar brought together eight global experts to delve into biosecurity’s multifaceted nature, covering aspects from facility design to the sanitisation of livestock trailers. The discussions underscored a universal truth: the impetus for biosecurity enhancements often stems from the direct experience of pain or loss.

Maintaining a clear line of separation to prevent disease transmission remains a foundational principle, applicable across different types of animal farming.

Key takeaways from the seminar included the acknowledgment that pinpointing the exact cause of an outbreak might not always be possible, and the importance of focusing on identifying significant biosecurity hazards rather than assigning blame.

The concept of the Swiss cheese model of biosecurity was highlighted, promoting the idea that while no single measure is foolproof, a layered approach significantly reduces the risk of disease penetration.

As the U.S. pork industry grapples with these challenges, the call for veterinarians to have a greater say in farm management decisions becomes louder. The emphasis on simple, intuitive control measures that do not hinder production, yet are robust enough to ensure long-term compliance, was echoed throughout the discussions.

The industry is urged to foster an environment where good biosecurity practices are not just encouraged but ingrained through positive reinforcement and practical design.

In conclusion, the path to enhanced biosecurity in pork production is complex and requires a concerted effort from all industry stakeholders. By adopting a holistic, layered approach and focusing on sustainable, effective practices, the industry can aspire to achieve the significant health improvements that have so far remained out of reach.