Biosecurity for Alternative Pig Farms



This factsheet presents a biosecurity protocol for farms raising pigs in alternative housing systems. The protocol can be adapted in various ways to meet the needs of different farms.  The main objective is to provide smaller scale, alternative production system users with information they can use to enhance farmstead biosecurity. Developing and implementing an effective biosecurity protocol for livestock reduces the risk of disease, thereby benefiting production and profitability.




First of all, what does biosecurity really mean?  Biosecurity is a set of preventative measures taken to reduce the risk of disease introduction or transmission.  Reducing the impact of disease has long been an issue on pig farms of all sizes.  Whether you have just a few pigs or thousands, it is important for the health and safety of those pigs, as well as for your pocketbook, to do everything possible to minimize their exposure to disease.  Even on large farms with well-established biosecurity protocols, disease outbreaks occur.  Sometimes entirely new disease threats arise (for example, Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus) that require biosecurity protocol revision.  How, then, can a farmer using an alternative system of production (such as open-air facilities with hoop structures, pasture farrowing, etc.) develop an effective biosecurity system? Complete biosecurity is difficult to achieve in any system, but much can be done on alternative pig farms to reduce disease risk.


At the University of Minnesota West Central Research and Outreach Center (WCROC), pigs are raised in both conventional confinement and in alternative production systems. Specifically, there is an environmentally controlled, slatted-floor nursery barn and farrowing facility with farrowing crates.  There is also a deep-bedded group farrowing barn and hoop structures for gestating sows and finishing pigs.  With this blend of housing facilities, pig production at the WCROC is similar in many ways to alternative pig farms.


Several years ago, WCROC swine scientists established a biosecurity protocol that has worked very well to decrease infectious disease risks.  An effective biosecurity program is very important for the WCROC because it is surrounded by larger conventional pig facilities that have experienced a series of disease outbreaks, including multiple rounds of Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome (PRRSv) and Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea (PEDv) viruses.


WCROC Biosecurity Plan

The WCROC biosecurity plan provides guidance for farm staff and visitors to reduce disease risk.  There are multiple components of the plan, which address the most common means of disease introduction or transmission.  It is essential for all farm workers to read, understand, and apply these disease-control guidelines.  Farm managers should ensure all workers are knowledgeable about biosecurity and appreciate its importance.  A well-developed biosecurity training program will help ensure that all workers are doing their best to minimize disease risk for the farm.


People entering the farm

Guidelines for farm workers:

  • Arrive with clean clothes that have not been exposed to pigs or that have been laundered since previous pig exposure.
  • Change out of “street clothes” into farm-specific clothes upon arrival.
  • Shower and change back into street clothes when leaving at the end of their shift.
  • A foot bath should be placed at the entryway of each building/unit where pigs are kept. Workers are expected to use the bath before entering and after leaving a building.  If shoes/boots are caked with organic matter, an effort should be made to remove the organic matter prior to stepping in disinfectant.   It is important that foot baths be well maintained, otherwise they lose effectiveness.  An alternative to setting up a foot bath is to use a spray bottle of disinfectant.  This still requires removal of organic matter prior to spraying the shoes/boots. A short list of disinfectants known to be effective against PEDv, Transmissible Gastroenteritis (TGEv), and PRRSv follows directly below, though it is not all-inclusive, nor can it be assumed that the listed disinfectants are 100% effective.  Follow the instructions on the label to determine how best to use.
  • Avoid contact with other swine outside of work hours.
  • Do not have a home swine herd.
  • Forego swine farm visitation in the U.S. for one week after international travel.


Guidelines for farm vistors:

  • Wait at least 48 hours after contact with local or domestic pigs before visiting another hog facility.
  • Forego swine farm visitation in the U.S. for one week after international travel.
  • Sign a Visitor Log confirming adherence to the farm’s biosecurity requirements for visitors.  This log will record the visitor’s name, address and other contact information.
  • Arrive with clean clothes that have not been exposed to pigs or have been laundered since previous pig exposure.
  • Wear coveralls and boots provided by the farm.  These can be disposable or washable, but must be clean prior to use.

Use foot baths or spray bottle to disinfect shoes at the entry way of each hog unit.  Visitors are expected to use the bath or spray before entering and after leaving a building.  Organic matter should be removed from shoes/boots prior to disinfecting.


Pig management

All-in-all-out method:

  • Sows should be batched farrowed so all sows in a group farrow within one week of each other.
  • Farrowing groups should be large enough so weaned piglets will fill the nursery and finishing facility on the same weaning day.  This allows pigs of similar ages to be housed together and advance from the nursery to finisher production phases without other pigs of different sources or ages being introduced.  This reduces disease introduction by preventing pigs of different health status from commingling.
  • If feeder pigs are purchased to feed out, all pigs should be bought from one source and be of similar ages.  The group should not be mixed with farm-born pigs.
  • Farrowing, nursery, and finishing barns should be cleaned and disinfected between groups.
  • Whenever possible, breeding stock should be raised on-site to minimize the need for introducing new animals into the herd.


Procedures when selling pigs:

  • No commercial haulers should be allowed onto the farm.  Pigs should be transported from the farm facility to the road where the commercial trailer is parked. Pigs cannot re-enter the farm trailer after entering the commercial truck.
  • When delivering pigs to a hog-buying station, the delivery person must wear double plastic boots and clean coveralls at the station.
  • Plastic boots must cover shoes prior to shoes touching station ground and be removed prior to touching the cab floor when returning to farm vehicle.
  • Coveralls must be removed prior to getting into vehicle and placed in a leak proof bag or container for either disposal or laundering.
  • At the station, the line of separation is at the unloading area of the trailer. The person unloading pigs from the trailer cannot cross the line of separation into the buying station. Once pigs leave the trailer they cannot return.  It is the buying station’s responsibility to move pigs to their designated holding area.
  • After leaving the buying station, the truck and trailer must be washed, disinfected, and parked off site.
  • When the driver returns to the farm, he/she should not have contact with pigs for the rest of the day.  If they are needed to work with pigs, they must shower and change clothes upon return to the farm and prior to working with pigs.


Procedures for introducing replacement breeding stock:

  • It is best for a farm to raise its own replacement breeding stock.  New genetics should be brought into the herd by using artificial insemination with semen tested to be free of disease pathogens.
  • If replacement breeding stock is purchased from another farm, make certain that herd is disease free.
  • Any pigs new or returning to the farm should be quarantined for a minimum of 30 days. They should be housed in an area away from the rest of the current herd that can be sanitized between uses.  Farm workers should do quarantine area chores last every day.  Pigs should be monitored closely for any signs of disease while in quarantine and a veterinarian consulted if a concern arises.
  • When establishing a herd vaccination protocol with a veterinarian, remember to include vaccinations recommended for incoming pigs.


Other guidelines

Going off farm to buy supplies:

  • Designated vehicles should be used that are different from vehicles used for daily farm work.
  • Clean/non-farm footwear should be used.
  • Prior to entering the vehicle to return to the farm, the bottom of footwear should be sprayed with disinfectant to kill any pathogens that could have been picked up at off-farm locations.
  • Floor mats and foot pedals of vehicle should also be sprayed with disinfectant, especially when there is an active threat of swine diseases such as PRRS and PED.
  • After returning to the farm, individuals should not have contact with pigs for the rest of the day if possible.  If they must have contact with pigs, they must change clothes and footwear prior to contact.


It is important to keep pest problems reduced to a minimum. Mice, rats, birds and flies can be a major vehicle for disease transmission.

Pest control guidelines:

  • Keep feed covered and clean up spills in a timely manner.
  • Keep the area around buildings free of weeds, tall grass, and debris, making the area less desirable for unwanted pests.
  • Use fencing, bird netting, or other materials to keep pests out of the barn and away from buildings, especially those housing animals or feed.
  • Use rodent bait stations according to label directions and keep bait stations out of reach of pigs.  Be sure to check rodent bait stations regularly.
  • If mortalities occur, dispose of carcasses promptly and properly, using disease-containment supplies and disinfection protocols.




The WCROC biosecurity plan provides uniform guidance for farm staff and visitors to reduce the risk of disease introduction or transmission.  Not all components of the WCROC biosecurity plan may be feasible for all farms, but they can serve as a model for developing farm-specific plans.  The process of creating a written biosecurity plan provides an excellent opportunity to identify biosecurity risk areas and create an effective protocol that reduces these risks.  The ultimate outcomes of developing a farm specific biosecurity protocol and following it are improved animal health and welfare, increased product quality, and increased profitability.


Additional resources


  1. University of Minnesota Extension Small Farms. 2015. Alternative Swine Biosecurity (1. Basics from the West Central Research & Outreach Center; 2. Keep Clothing & Footwear from Contaminating Pig Areas; 3. All-In-All-Out Management Practice; 4




  1. National Pork Board. 2013. Pork Quality Assurance® Plus Handbook Version 2. Des Moines, IA.
  2. University of Minnesota Swine Disease Eradication Center. 2013. PEDV Viral Stability and Disinfectant Use as Compared to TGEV and PRRSV. Available at: cvm.umn.edu/sdec/prod/groups/cvm/@pub/@cvm/@sdec/documents/content/cvm_content_447178.pdf. Accessed Jan 8, 2014.)
  3. Practical Farmers of Iowa and Iowa State University Extension. 2007. Managing for Herd Health in Alternative Swine Systems: A Guide. Available at: http://www.leopold.iastate.edu/pubs-and-papers/2007-06-managing-herd-health