Swine: Biosecurity Pays Dividends

Date of publication : 12/29/2008
Source : Prairie Swine Centre Inc.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. This famous quote by Ben Franklin is the essence of Biosecurity. There are many very visual practices we undertake and are familiar with in the name of biosecurity. Entrance showering, downtime, cleaning of anything brought in to the farm..... What about inside the barn??? When we are finished a cycle we clean a room in preparation of the next cycle. The idea is to clean and disinfect the room, to reduce the challenge for the oncoming batch.

Disinfection not Sterilization

Disinfection reduces the number of bacteria, not completely eliminates them. Sterilization (eliminates all microbial activity) is used for the tools, which can be submerged or super heated (autoclaved). Hospitals and barns are disinfected Instruments used in a surgery for example are sterilized. To help disinfection be as efficient as possible we need to prepare the surface. How you ask, I thought you'd never ask? Let's go through a standard cleanup.

Step 1- Pre-clean, this is accomplished by removing the excess organic material, large manure areas, excess feed, etc. If removing it by water (pressure or a fire hose); allow sometime to dry (stop dripping ) before proceeding to the next step.

Step 2 - Apply a degreaser. A degreaser needs to be applied on all surfaces intended to be washed. It needs to be at the label concentration and wet enough to soak but not roll off the wall (just before dripping normally 250-500 ml/). All products need a minimum of 10 - 20 minutes to do their work. This step is important in a few ways. A degreaser is a soap or detergent. First it removes the protective layer around the bacteria and viruses, called Biofilm. This allows the disinfection in the later steps to penetrate and kill more effectively. There are 2 types of Biofilms and different detergents work better in removing them. An alkaline detergent is great to take off the greasy Biofilm (normally the biggest challenge, often described as that slimy film. This can be accomplished using products like Biosolve, Chlor-a-foam.). An acid based detergent is very good at removing the mineral film (the visual staining (eg. Biofoam, Acid-a-foam)). It is a very good practice to rotate between these two types, normally a 3:1 respectively. Another positive is that the proper use of soaps will save a washer 30% - 50% washing time. This time saving alone will more than pay for the soap cost. Don't get caught up on the cost of the soap. Most expensive soaps are actually cheaper to use per room in a challenged area (such as the barn environment). The more expensive soaps normally have set concentration and cheaper ones vary with conditions, do the math, you'll see.

Step 3 - Pressure wash: Use your dirt blasters and remove the dirt, with the detergents from the step above you have loosened a lot of the protective Biofilm and the pressure washer will remove 85-90% of the films, bacteria, and viruses. This is a huge step in preparing the surfaces for an effective disinfection. Again allow some time for the room to dry as much as possible (stop dripping) before proceeding to the next step.

Step 4 -
Disinfection, the final step. Disinfectants need to be applied at their working concentration. Read the label and make sure the final product hitting the wall is at the right concentration. With the surfaces prepared from the previous steps, the disinfectants can focus on what is remaining, and not be overwhelmed by the excess organic matter load. Allow the room to dry before animals enter, also be aware that some disinfectants are more toxic than others and feeding / sleeping areas may need to be rinsed before use, even if it is all dried.

The best analogy I can make about soaping and disinfecting is that it is like painting. Anytime you paint you make sure the consistency is right but you also make sure you have enough. One needs to measure all the surfaces that you are working with so that you get enough paint. Below is a typical 12 crate farrowing room calculation, figuring out how much product (paint) is needed.

Farrowing room - 2 rows of 6 crates are 5 x 7 with a 3 foot alley and 2 feet in the back.
Length of the room - 35 feet
Width of room - 21 feet
Height - 10 feet


If you were using one big tank, and only drawing for that for application, the numbers above are all you need. However if you are using a proportioner, remember only a small portion of the soaking volume will be from your stock, a large percent will come from your water supply. However in the stock proportionate there must be at least the 0.777 liters of the pure product. Figuring out the working ratio of you proportioner is another topic all in itself.

Cleaning and disinfection is just another critical step in the Biosecurity process; a very important one. The better we "paint the room" (clean and disinfect) the better it looks and the less challenge for our new arrivals allowing them to utilize all of their energy on growing, instead of challenging volumes of Bacteria /Viruses. Good luck and good cleaning!!

By Dave vanWhellingham, Sheriden Hueser Provis (Steinbach, Manitoba)
Published by the Prairie Swine Centre Inc.

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