African Swine Fever – Time to Review Farm Biosecurity

30 April 2019

 With daily headlines of African Swine Fever (ASF) devastating the pig population in China, this should be a warning to farmers – regardless of species, as to the importance of biosecurity on farm, after all prevention is better than cure.

Report by Dr Anna Lavery, Swine Technical Advisor, Trouw Nutrition Ireland


Many diseases such as ASF, can be spread by direct contact through infected animals, faeces or fluids but also by indirect contact with equipment, vehicles or people.

It is therefore essential to review your biosecurity measures on a regular basis.

Focusing on the some of the potential risk points noted below can improve your farms biosecurity.

1. Visitors and deliveries

Many farms have various daily visitors, but when possible vehicle access on farm should be limited, with the delivery of goods to a neutral area, away from animal housing. Make sure vehicles are clean upon entry and drivers do not enter animal housing.

For visitors entering animal housing, make sure on-farm clothing and boots are provided and boots are washed and disinfected between buildings.

2. Animals

Regardless of species, incoming stock pose a risk of spreading disease. Animals do not need to be obviously sick to introduce disease; many may be incubating recently exposed infections or carriers of bacteria.

To reduce the risk, the health status of the source herd should be thoroughly checked and in-coming animals should be kept isolated from the herd in separate accommodation for 4 to 8 weeks.

3. Staff

It is important all staff know your farm biosecurity procedures. Facilities should be provided to brush heavy dirt off boots before disinfection, with disinfection points throughout the farm.

Clothing worn on farm should be used only on farm and washed regularly. If staff are visiting abroad, particularly to ASF risk areas, they should avoid contact with pigs or wild boar while travelling. Foreign meat should not be brought back to Ireland and footwear should be cleaned and disinfected.

Feeding catering waste or food scraps to pigs is illegal following the outbreak of foot and mouth disease in 2001. Do not allow staff or visitors to bring pork products onto the farm as they may harbour the virus.

4. Routine Hygiene

Animal housing should be cleaned thoroughly between batches of animals. Any manure should be removed from the pens before pressure washing. Disinfectant should also be applied to clean pens as per product instructions and the pens/housing should be allowed to dry thoroughly before re-stocking.

Particular attention should focus on making sure drinkers and feeders are clean.


Since the outbreak of ASF in China last year at least one million pigs have died or been culled in an attempt to control the disease. It is estimated that the total pig herd in China will be reduced by ~ 13% in 2019 and could worsen yet as the disease is still spreading. The virus has also spread to Vietnam and Cambodia. ASF has also been detected in Europe, in wild boar populations in Belgium, Poland and Romania, with the numbers of infected animals continuing to increase. The spread of ASF in China and in Europe highlights the need to maintain and monitor biosecurity on farm to protect your farm and business.