Veterinarians play an important role in farm biosecurity

Each summer veterinary students from the Ontario Veterinary College delve into that practical experience at veterinary clinics across Ontario and additional locales. These blog posts are an opportunity to tag along with nine of them this summer.

By Ed Metzger

Ed Metzger, Ontario Veterinary College class of 2016

Ed Metzger, Ontario Veterinary College class of 2016

Veterinarians play important role in upholding high biosecurity standards.

Basically, biosecurity encompasses everything we do to keep the existing “bugs” on a farm contained, and keep other bad bugs out; it’s a way of confining avenues of disease such as viruses and bacteria to one place and limiting their spread. Biosecurity is an issue swine veterinarians deal with on a daily basis, and has been a cornerstone of practice during my time at South West.

So how do you reduce or stop the spread of disease from farm to farm? This can sometimes be a very tricky task. Some of the main ways that viruses spread from farm to farm are on animals themselves when a producer brings new animals to his farm, and on people: their boots, clothes, and the vehicles they are driving. Some common viruses such as PRRS (Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome) can even become aerosolized and spread through the air – this presents a major challenge! Because of this, there has been an overwhelming response and acceptance, from producers and industry personnel, to adopt practices to reduce the spread of disease.

Veterinarians play an important role in upholding high biosecurity standards because they travel so much from farm to farm. Some (but certainly not all!) of these precautionary standards include:

1. Planning farm visits based on the health of the herd: going to see the healthiest herds first with the goal of not bringing potential disease there from other farms.
2. Parking vehicles as far away from the barns as possible.
3. Wearing disposable boot covers when stepping out of the vehicle onto a farm.
4. Having containers available in the vehicle for samples and clothing to reduce vehicle contamination.
5. Disinfecting once you leave a farm premise.
6. Regularly cleaning and disinfecting vehicles.

Some examples of biosecurity measures being used on farm by farmers include:

A Danish entry system

Example of a Danish Entry system. Picture provided by OSHAB

1. Using a Danish Entry – this usually consists of a bench that divides the “clean” and “dirty” portions of an entranceway to the barn and concurrently requires a boot change (see picture).
2. Monitoring the health status of any animals entering the barn (ex. young breeding stock) and ensure they match the current health status of the herd.
3. Monitoring which people and vehicles enter the farm premises.


Preventing the spread of disease is extremely complex and the measures listed above are only a small sample of what industry workers do on a daily basis. The swine industry as a whole is continually striving to learn new ways to fine-tune biosecurity measures with the ultimate goal of maintaining healthy pigs.

Ed Metzger is a fourth-year DVM student at the Ontario Veterinary College. His main focus is food animal medicine, in particular, swine, poultry, and ruminant medicine. He recently completed an eight-week externship with South West Ontario Veterinary Services.

You can find more blog posts from Ontario veterinary students completing their externship this summer, here.

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