Developing data-driven biosecurity programs


Pablo Moreno, DVM

Pablo Moreno, DVM, Swine Veterinary and Production International Service LLC, recently spoke with Pig Health Today about implementing best biosecurity practices as discussed in his recent Peer Circles webinar hosted by Zoetis.


Q: On your webinar, you shared best practices for developing and implementing effective biosecurity programs on pig farms. What are the key elements of a successful biosecurity program?

PM: Science is the base for any successful biosecurity program. Data-driven approaches to risk analysis and constant biosecurity monitoring are essential to understanding the threats you face and the link between disease outbreaks and biosecurity breaches. Practicality in terms of time, effort and cost-benefit is also essential so practices can be standardized across production facilities. Another crucial element is company culture, including training and communication, to ensure all employees are engaged. The management team should lead by example, and when problems arise, the goal should be to find solutions — not point fingers.


Q: What are the most common errors producers make when developing a biosecurity plan?

PM: A common error producers make is not matching their biosecurity programs with the most common diseases in their area. Some companies copy what was done by others, rather than design a program based on evidence from their own company. You need to gather information on current pathogenic threats — otherwise, you cannot “know your enemy.”


Q: Effective biosecurity programs begin with risk analysis. What are the most important data points to gather?

PM: Biosecurity risks can arise both inside and outside farms. To assess external risks, we start by analyzing the number of events that could potentially cause a threat to the company sites — for example, the number of pig loads per week or how often semen is brought to a sow farm.

Once we evaluate all possible threats, we modify or exclude the procedures that don’t affect productivity. Then we prioritize measures based on practicality and cost-effectiveness.

Regarding internal risks, we look at all possibilities for contamination between company sites, including farms, feed mills, truck wash stations, living areas and support departments. Then we create a monitoring program and alarm systems for disease-control actions. Based on data from these assessments, we prioritize measures as previously described.


Q: Once priorities are set, and an evidence-based biosecurity plan is put in place, what determines whether it will be successful?

PM: No plan is 100% effective, so if we minimize disease events in the company, we consider it a success. For that to happen, we need to have a monitoring plan to evaluate all the disease events and all pathogens regularly. Procedures should continually be evaluated and kept on statistical process control charts to communicate to the whole company. Records and clear action plans for events and near-miss events should also be in place. Systems for analyzing real-time data on such factors as health level in your area, diagnostics and disease monitoring, climate conditions and transportation logistics can help make more accurate correlations with events.


Q: How often should biosecurity programs be evaluated?

PM: I recommend daily observation; this is possible with the right training. If you have an excellent digital method for gathering information, you can monitor data on a real-time basis.

If the assessment is manual, do a weekly evaluation, at least on the farms. Regardless of which method you use, a general assessment should be done every 6 months.


Q: What tools, metrics and best practices are recommended for assessing biosecurity programs?

PM: If a company’s IT department has the capabilities, it should develop a customized app for collecting data on all sites. Videos and pictures of the actual procedures are also helpful; however, these videos need to be unscheduled to provide an accurate picture of the situation.

At least once a year, the people responsible for developing the biosecurity program should make an unscheduled audit of all procedures. It’s also useful to have a good statistician on hand to make correlations between biosecurity procedures, disease events and production levels.


Q: How can producers ensure their biosecurity programs are in line with their budgets?

PM: Once again, the key is to base your program on data, not feelings or subjective perceptions. Always weigh the cost of the prevention method against the potential negative effect of the pathogen on your systems. You should also consider your production value: For example, it will be different if you are working in genetics or commercial pig production.

The priority is to optimize return on investment in all production systems. A biosecurity program is a form of insurance. The cost depends on your particular risk; therefore every company’s approach will be different and must be driven by data. And every company needs to have a good team that understands this.