TOLONO, Ill. — A pair of tours of swine breeding facilities in Illinois and Iowa that tied in with the recently-concluded World Pork Expo left a veteran Illinois purebred swine breeder lamenting the "new reality" of biosecurity measures employed by those in animal production.
That includes vehicle and personal decontaminations, restricted viewing of animals and the strict use of radio-only communications between breeding farm operators, potential buyers and other visitors.
The reason for the unprecedented increase in biosecurity measures is, of course, the rapid spread of the porcine epidemic diarrhea (PED) virus throughout the Hog Belt since being confirmed in the United States a little over a year ago. The USDA recently allocated more than $26 million to help combat further spread of the virus, which has killed an estimated 7 million piglets, or 10 percent of the U.S. stock, over the past year.
A June visit to one of Iowa’s most prominent swine breeding operations served as an eye-opening experience for many potential Chinese buyers of U.S. breeding stock, according to George Bruns, a former breeder who coordinates buyers’ tours for Ag World International and is a director for the Illinois Pork Producers Assoc.
"As far as biosecurity, this is just how drastic the farms have gotten: When we went to (the farm), they met the tour bus five miles away and disinfected the whole bus while we stayed in it. Once at the farm, we looked at pigs through the windows of the tour bus. We had radios to communicate with the farm so the foreign visitors could see and learn about the pigs. We never were allowed to get out of the bus," he recounted.
Potential foreign buyers from Colombia, Peru, Mexico, Vietnam and the Philippines were likewise subjected to stringent biosecurity measures during an Illinois Department of Agriculture-sponsored trade mission in conjunction with the World Pork Expo, according to Bruns.
"Actually, most farms in the U.S. that sell breeding stock are not letting people come on the farm at all anymore. They are either bringing the pigs out where (buyers) can see them, or selling them sight unseen, meeting at a neutral spot and transferring the pigs," he said.
"Also, many farms are becoming shower-in and shower-out. You shower in, you wear their clothing, pick out the pigs, come back in and shower out, put your clothes on and leave. You just can’t go onto breeding farms with your own clothes, or even with your own vehicle, anywhere close to a shower house."
Most breeding farm operators who host trade missions and buyer groups have invested in retired school buses or other large transportation vehicles to better control what bacteria is brought into – and carried out of – their facilities, said Bruns.
"And most farms now require that if you are visiting you have had no contact with other hogs or any livestock for at least 48 hours before you come onto their property," he said.
As for the future, "I don’t think we’ll ever be able to go into buildings again; I think we’ll have to bring pigs out for viewing on ramps or by other means," Bruns concluded.