Physical Security is an Important Part of Biosecurity, By Todd Thurman, SwineTex Consulting Services


Padlock on Gate

n a previous life, I was a police officer and people often asked me how to improve the security of their homes and businesses. I always told them to focus on the simple things. Advanced security systems are great and can provide piece of mind and added protection, but most burglaries can be prevented by very basic procedures. For example, almost every auto burglary call I ever received involved the car being unlocked. Many home burglaries involved garage doors that were left open and one auto theft I was called to was made very easy for the criminal since the owner left the keys in the car and the window rolled down. I have the same advice for pork producers now as I did business and homeowners back then, focus on the basics.

Physical Security can be defined as: Security measures that are designed to deny an authorized access to facilities, equipment and resources and to protect personnel and property from damage or harm. Physical security is a component of biosecurity but it’s often overlooked, especially in the US and Canada. In other countries around the world, people tend to take physical security much more seriously. When I worked in Russia, every farm had a substantial perimeter wall and security guards were present 24 hours a day at every site. In China, it’s extraordinarily rare to see a farm without at least a perimeter fence and building a new farm without one would be unthinkable.

In the US, however, it is extremely common for farms not to have any sort of perimeter fence. Oftentimes, entry doors aren’t even locked. Even when doors are locked, they’re frequently flimsy, hollow core doors that could be kicked in by an average teenaged girl. The locks themselves are laughable as well resembling locks found on interior bathroom doors in residences.

So, why should pork producers be concerned about physical security? The reasons are many, but I’ll address a few of the primary ones here. First, one of the five biosecurity risk factors is people. As we all know, exclusion is a primary tool in our biosecurity tool kit. People that don’t visit the farm are the only people that don’t represent any biosecurity risk to the farm. So, we need to be able to effectively control who enters the farm. We obviously need to be able to grant easy access to employees and invited guests, but we also need to be able to exclude uninvited guests.

Uninvited guests may include people that are there for nefarious purposes such as an activist that wants to damage the farm, a burglar looking to steal something, a disgruntled former employee that wants revenge or even a terrorist bent on intentionally spreading an animal disease. There are also other uninvited guests that while they may not have bad intentions, they represent a biosecurity risk. These guests might include neighbors wanting to visit, delivery people and travelers looking for directions or help with a broken down car. Regardless of the reasons for their visits, we need to make sure that people that need to get in can get in and people that represent any unnecessary risk to the farm are not able to get in.

Physical security features such as perimeter fences can also be very useful in keeping animals other than the pigs away from the farm. This can be effective in keeping wild animals such as feral pigs, raccoons and coyotes away from the farm. Fences can also be useful in keeping other livestock, poultry and companion animals that can spread disease away from the farm.

Obviously, there are other non-biosecurity related reasons why farmers need to pay attention to physical security. Protection of employees while they’re at work as well as protection of expensive electronics, mechanical products and tools in the farm and even the animals themselves.

Now we’ve established why producers should care about physical security so here’s a few easy tips for improving physical security on farms.

1)  Install a perimeter fence or wall. Any sort of barrier is better than nothing but at a minimum, you need a fence that is not easily breached by an animal or human. A chain link style fence with a lockable gate should be considered the minimum.

2)  All entry points should have lockable doors. These doors should be high quality solid core doors with quality, heavy duty hinges. Each door should be lockable from the inside with a dead bolt security lock. All entry points should have signage indicating that only authorized persons are allowed to enter. Don’t forget loading chutes. The entry to loading chutes should have a lockable security door and it’s recommended to have a lockable barrier at the end of the chute as well to discourage unauthorized use.

3)  If the farm is visible from a major road, it may be useful to plant evergreen trees to shield the farm from the road. In addition to physical security advantages, trees can be useful for biosecurity purposes as well.

4)  Ensure there is proper lighting on the perimeter of the farm. While research is somewhat conflicting, it is believed that perimeter lighting is an effective deterrent. I suggest basic perimeter flood lights on timers set to come on at dusk and off at dawn. Near entry points, I suggest motion activated flood lights. Removing clutter and vegetation near the barn is also a good practice not just for physical security but also to promote adequate air flow in the facility and discourage rodents.

5)  Even if you don’t have a security system, placing a security system sign or sticker near primary entry points can serve as a deterrent. Similarly, dummy video cameras can discourage burglars and other miscreants.

6)  If you want to take extra steps, a full scale security system may be a consideration. There are the traditional services that everyone is aware of but there are also more cost effective DIY systems on the market as well. Some can even be incorporated into other electrical components of the farm and there are new technologies coming out seemingly every day. Like most technologies, these systems and their components have become a lot more affordable over the years. I have several clients that have installed smart door locks in combination with smart video doorbells. Video door bells are a convenient way to monitor who is entering the farm. When paired with a smart door lock, it can also serve as an entry approval method for guests. When guests arrive, they can push the door bell which will then notify the manager who can see video of the guest and communicate with them via two way audio. If they also have a WiFi enabled smart lock, they can unlock the door for the guest from the smartphone or can provide a code to be entered by the guest to unlock the door. If you use a smart lock, make sure to use temporary guest codes that can be disabled and change access codes on a regular basis or when access permissions change.

Remember that biosecurity is not just showers, disinfectants and disposable boots. Physical security is an important component as well. Just a little money and effort can help ensure the safety of the farm’s employees, the health of the farm’s animals and the security of the farm’s valuable assets.

About the Author: Todd Thurman is an International Swine Management Consultant and Founder of SwineTex Consulting Services, LLC. SwineTex is a US-Based provider of consulting and training services to the global pork industry. To learn more about SwineTex Consulting Services, send an email to or visit the website at



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