Improved biosecurity on farms — avoiding contact between groups of animals and reducing the general infection pressure — can help to improve animal health, while reducing the need for medications and the risk of antimicrobial resistance. This makes sense in theory but the proof may be elusive.
At a recent workshop on farm biosecurity organized by the EIP-AGRI group of the European Commission, experts from across the EU came together to exchange ideas to improve biosecurity for pigs and other farm animals.
Delegates heard about the documented success of a group of pig farmers in Spain. With rats known to transmit a number of diseases including Salmonella and swine dysentery, and to contaminate 10 times more feed than they eat, the farmers had a growing realization about the importance of biosecurity generally and rodent control in particular.
Together, they developed a device to attract rats with a non-toxic bait and trap them. Initial testing at the Swine Research Farm in Aguilafuente near Segovia proved the device worked, and it had the advantage over standard methods of rodent control that neither poisons nor dead and decaying carcasses were left on the farm.
A network of 59 farms signed up for the commercial testing, and more than 70,000 rats were successfully trapped and safely destroyed in the first year.
EIP-AGRI reports that this success resulted in healthy pigs, less medication, good product prices and happy farmers.
The workshop had been led by Professor Jeroen Dewulf, PhD, an expert on biosecurity at Ghent University in Belgium. To help farmers assess and improve biosecurity for their pig herd, the University has developed a free online scoring system in several European languages.