Keeping bugs out of the barn

A simple and relatively low cost Danish procedure may help Ontario pork producers in their fight against a devastating disease – Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome (PRRS).PRRS has been a challenge in Ontario’s hog industry since the early 90’s when it was still called mystery swine disease. In 2004, new and more virulent PRRS strains appeared, and the swine industry responded with the formation of the Ontario Pork Industry Council’s Swine Health Advisory Board (OSHAB). Although real solutions remain elusive, effective control and prevention methods are improving.

Now, OSHAB is urging all producers to adopt one such method – an easy and economical procedure used in Denmark to help prevent disease transmission.

Danish hog farmers have been following what is being called the “Danish Entry” system in their fight against this disease. Using basic biosecurity principles, this system creates a single, controlled entrance to a barn, reducing potential risks from the outside.

“Danish entry works on a simple premise,” says Dr. Martin Misener, Chair of OSHAB’s Communications Committee. “Outside boots and clothes don’t go into a barn, and barn boots and clothes don’t come out. And a hand wash is very effective in reducing spread of disease.”

A Danish Entry consists of an initial area behind the locked door where entrants remove their outside clothing (coats, coveralls, hats) and shoes. Hands are washed and sanitized at a sink in a second area, and clean barn footwear and clean overalls are donned in a third area before entering into the remainder of the barn. The system is designed to limit visitor traffic and ensures that the producer is aware of everyone entering or leaving a barn. It also increases awareness amongst barn workers and visitors of the possibility of disease transmission.

The effectiveness of the Danish system in minimizing PRRS transmission was proven by research at the University of Minnesota. Study results indicated there was no transfer of the virus to pigs from contaminated fomites – coveralls, boots and clothing – and hands when the Danish Entry system was used.

Awareness of the need for biosecurity has grown in the hog industry in recent years, with many breeding stock suppliers and multipliers using systems that are much more stringent than the Danish Entry in their fight to protect the high health status of their herds. But these measures are complicated and costly, and aren’t as widespread amongst commercial producers. And this is where the Danish system has a big advantage: it is easy to implement and can be installed at little cost in virtually any barn entrance way.

“This is one thing that every farm can do to reduce the risk of disease introduction,” says Nadine Funk, Managing Director of the Ontario Pork Industry Council (OPIC). “There’s a lot we don’t know yet about PRRS, but we do know that Danish Entry works.”

The entire industry is affected by disease, especially one as prevalent and virulent as PRRS, she says, adding that this is why OPIC is openly encouraging all pork producers to adopt the Danish Entry as a minimum standard of biosecurity on their farms.

“Ontario pork producers are a talented and ingenious group,” says Misener. “The challenge of how to adapt a Danish Entry to Ontario farms is minor, and it is good for us to focus on the things we can achieve instead of worrying about the ones we can’t”.

This article was originally published in the Ontario Hog Farmer, Spring 2007.

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