Best management practice is to maintain your farm and herd in a way that reduces or eliminates introduction and transmittance of pathogens. Biosecurity is this best practice, and it is something everyone who works with animals should be familiar with – in particular, those working with livestock. Food safety is essential for farmers and ranchers growing food animals and the introduction of illness to your herd can be devastating. Having a biosecurity plan is essential and is your insurance in the event that endemic illness does occur.
The best tool in developing a biosecurity plan is working with your veterinarian to know what viruses and pathogens are local to you, what your species of livestock is susceptible to, and modes of pathogen transference. Being in the business of animal agriculture, several animals likely inhabit the same pen and housing, so the best place to start is providing and maintaining clean water and food sources. After transporting animals, clean the trailer and other equipment – and if you are transporting animals into your facility, have quarantine procedures in place. Not only that, but make sure you are diligent regarding the animals you are importing so you avoid introducing new pathogens to your herd.
This all sounds familiar, right? But while you know to have a biosecurity plan, how exactly do you prepare for undercover agents? An important facet to biosecurity is minimizing nonessential personnel and monitoring visitor access, expecting employees to be observant for sick animals and familiar with biosecurity practices in the event of illness. Well, when you unknowingly hire an undercover animal rights activist, your livelihood is suddenly in jeopardy. As seen in a recent undercover video, not only was the farm subjected to the humiliation of undercover footage, but as consequence they had someone on the premises who had no regard for biosecurity.
In the agricultural industry, Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus (PEDv) is something we’ve seen in headlines for months, especially in the wake of this video’s publicity. As hog farmers, PEDv has serious implications and has likely influenced biosecurity plans. Because it’s transmitted by the fecal-oral route, you’re minimizing environmental contamination and actively identifying and separating infected sows and piglets. With no registered vaccine or cure, fighting dehydration is about the best you can do, still losing almost 100% of piglets less than four weeks old if they contract the virus. But there’s feedback. Familiar to every livestock veterinarian, feedback is the process of feeding pregnant sows the diarrhea or intestines of infected/dying piglets to build her immunity so she can then pass on antibodies to her piglets through nursing. And yet, this desperate effort to save lives is now called “cannibalism” by those same animal activists that pay for undercover video footage. Not to mention that the undercover activist that betrayed one farm are likely on their way to the next target with PEDv-positive manure on their boots.
This is a sad reality, the Humane Society of the United States being just one of the animal rights groups who puts their own agenda over the very animals they are trying to “save.” These farmers fight back, though, going from one day to the next with greater experience and a better understanding of what they can do to produce healthy animals while also holding up an entire industry. It is our sincere hope that the effects of PEDv can be minimized and reliable prevention can be identified, supporting protective efforts against undercover agents along the way.
**As an undergraduate student studying Animal Science, my work in the dairy industry and in animal agriculture makes this topic not only relevant to me, but something I incorporate into my education and life experiences every day!**
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