Pressure in terms of health in pig farming has markedly changed over the past two decades with emergence of the Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome (PRRS), followed by Piglet Wasting Disease (PWD) and finally African Swine Fever (ASF). At the same time, the structure, organisation and practices of pig farms have also changed significantly. At the same time, the structure, organisation and practices of pig farms have also changed significantly. Increase in farm size, specialisation of workshops, changes in management practices and introduction of new vaccines or hygiene practices are all factors that can have an impact on the health of the animals within a farm.

Biosecurity has therefore become a key line of action for the success of the pig sector.

The main risks of contamination
in pig breeding

Main contamination factors in pig breeding

Surroundings and buildings, the initial sanitary barriers

General organisation of a pig farm General organisation of a pig farm

When setting up a breeding farm and depending on its activity (selection, multiplication or (re)production), a certain number of elements need to be taken into account:

  • The geographical location ;
  • The protection of the boundaries of the pig farm (fence, walls);
  • The organisation of the flows of persons, animals and vehicles.

A Biosecurity plan that can be consulted by everyone is compulsory in pig farming. It comprises the following 3 activity zones: public, professional and breeding.

The surroundings of the building must be clean and well maintained (grass cut, no waste stored along the walls) to avoid harbouring pests (rodents, insects). The entrances to the building have concrete slabs in front to facilitate disinfection.

In the event of an epizootic disease, spreading of quicklime (500g/m²) on the approaches to the buildings (protected boundaries) is recommended, particularly in front of the airlock, gates and in high traffic areas.

The essentials for achieving biosecurity of your building:

  • Giving preference to rearing in batches;
  • Setting up protected boundaries around the building, which can be visualised by signalling barriers and regularly disinfected;
  • Using a sanitary airlock;
  • Increasing the ease of decontamination of the traffic areas;
  • Protecting the dock against any external contamination;
  • Protecting the equipment (storage shed within the protected boundaries);
  • Restricting access to vehicles and persons whose presence is not essential.
Pig breeding (France) Pig breeding (France)

Water: a “food” that should not be neglected

The drinking water intended for the pigs is not subject to any legislation setting quality standards, unlike water for human consumption, which is required to fulfil potability criteria. The regulations solely stipulate that it should be of “adequate” quality, and to meet this requirement, a certain number of criteria are defined.

1. Bacteriological quality of the water

Although no established standard exists, it is recommended to test for the absence of microorganisms (total Coli, E. coli, streptococci, etc.) in 100 ml of water.

Contamination may already occur at the water catchment point, but also in the farm piping, particularly owing to the residual biofilm . In order to ascertain the bacteriological quality of the water, an analysis should be carried out (ideally at the airlock and at the end of the line). In the event of inadequate bacteriological quality, it is highly recommended that corrective measures be taken: checking the watertightness of the catchment point and implementing water disinfection (chlorine dioxide, hydrogen peroxide or chlorine).

2. Physical and chemical quality of the water

It is essential to be aware of the physical and chemical quality of the drinking water, as under certain circumstances, it may cause:

  • Unsuccessful disinfection of the water (e.g.: reduced efficacy of chlorination in alkaline or iron-rich water);
  • Failures of treatments administered via drinking water (e.g.: some antibiotics precipitate in hard and alkaline water) ;
  • Problems related to inadequate watering of the animals (associated with the development of biofilm or with clogging of the piping).

A physical and chemical analysis of the water should be carried out at least once every two years.

3. Cleaning and disinfection of the piping

Purging of the drinking trough downpipes

The standard procedure for cleaning the inside of the pipes to remove as much biofilm as possible is as follows:

  • Filling the pipes with an alkaline solution, followed by a contact time of between 30 minutes and 1 hour;
  • Purging under pressure -> degreasing;
  • Filling of the pipes with a second acid solution, followed by the same contact time -> descaling;
  • Purging under pressure;
  • Disinfection by filling the pipes with a disinfectant solution;
  • Purging with clean water if necessary.

It is important to purge the drinking troughs before the pigs enter the rooms. The drinking trough should be allowed to run until the temperature change can be felt with the finger. The stagnant water at room temperature is replaced by the running water, which is often cooler. 

Purging under pressure is essential during the cleaning protocol in order to obtain a sufficient mechanical flushing effect to wash out the impurities detached from the piping walls by the alkaline and acidic products used.

The essential Cleaning & Disinfection programme

The Cleaning & Disinfection programme in pig breeding comprises three stages:

  • Preparation of the room, which makes the subsequent cleaning and disinfection work easier;
  • Soaking, on which the success of cleaning depends;
  • Cleaning, which finally serves to rid the surfaces of their soiling.

Rinsing is indispensable. This is because high-pressure scouring blows small particles of organic material around the room. These can be removed by rinsing with a flat jet.

Drying and heating the room should be preferred to a long depopulation period.

1. Preparation of the room

This stage serves to facilitate the operations of Cleaning & Disinfecting the surfaces. It entails:

  • Removing the small items of equipment, above all in the farrowing room (bowls, matting) to clean and disinfect them outside the room;
  • Scrape away coarse soiling (faeces, food) ;
  • Dedust the top sections;
  • Drain the pre-tanks.

2. Soaking

Soaking is the key phase that subsequently influences the ease of cleaning. Only soaking for several hours is sufficient to genuinely hydrate and dissolve the soiling. Soaking is carried out within a maximum of 3-4 hours after the pigs have left. It can be automated using manifolds with rotating nozzles (rotating garden sprayers are best avoided, as they do not cover all the surfaces of the room well and result in high water consumption). 

Ideally, soaking is sequential: 5 min. of soaking every 15 min. for 2 to 12 h.

Soaking manifold

3. Cleaning 

Cleaning and scouring of the walls of the buildings are the most tedious but above all the most important operations for properly carrying out a disinfection procedure. 

Use of a foaming detergent should be preferred for this stage.

Application of a detergent encourages the water to penetrate into the soiling. Whether carried out before or after scouring, detergency significantly enhances the quality of cleaning. When properly performed, detergency also saves time and water. At the end of this phase, the room must be visually clean.

4. Disinfection

The disinfectant must not be applied to soaking wet surfaces, as this results in its dilution and poor foam adhesion. Excessively dry surfaces are also to be avoided, as the lack of water causes quiescence of the bacteria, which restricts metabolism and reduces the efficacy of the disinfectant. 

It is therefore advisable to disinfect between 1 and 12 hours after cleaning. The contact time on the surface is also important, hence the use of foaming products.

The disinfection must involve contact disinfection by spraying and at the doses recommended by the disinfectant manufacturer. 

A second disinfection may be recommended in farms with a high health status, recurrent health problems or long depopulation periods. Aerial disinfection should be preferred for this second disinfection.

Safety first

For operator safety, protective measures are indispensable during operations involving Cleaning & Disinfection.

  • When using the high-pressure pump, an impervious suit, an anti-noise headset and waterproof boots should be worn.
  • When applying the products, more specific Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as chemical protection gloves, goggles, a suit impervious to chemicals (Type 4) and cartridge mask (ABEPK) are required. In case of doubt about the PPE to be worn, refer to section 8 of the Safety Data Sheet (SDS) of the chemical product used.

If the operator is required to climb down into the pre-tankspréfosses, strict safety measures are to be implemented.

Advice to reduce the tediousness of Cleaning and Disinfection

  • Prefer more easily washable materials: plastic and stainless steel rather than concrete, smooth rather than rough surfaces;
  • Keep surfaces in good condition, not worn or cracked, easily accessible and well lit. Monitor the slope in the pre-tanks, the solid partitions, the wire grating, the lift-up slatted floor, the feeders that can topple over and the drain plug on the troughs;
  • Start the Cleaning & Disinfection protocol as soon as the pigs leave, before the surfaces dry;
  • Carry out an automated soaking operation lasting approximately 12 hours;
  • Apply a detergent before scouring to facilitate dissolution of soiling;
  • Use a stationary washing pump with hose connection by clipping rather than screw fitting;
  • Use a high flow rate pump (28-30 l/min.) and work at low pressure (approx. 100 bars) ;
  • During scouring, ventilate the room as thoroughly as possible;
  • Apply the products in foam form at the right dose to save time and water;
  • Use the appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).