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Quality assurance versus biosecurity

By Dr Annie Labauschagne, Charles Street Vets
Quality assurance and biosecurity are keywords that are frequently mentioned in pig conversations.  Although many regard them as the same, there are very important differences between these two concepts. Quality assurance can be defined as steps taken by producers to ensure the quality of pigs that they deliver to the abattoir.
Biosecurity can be defined as all steps taken by producers and other role players to protect the health of their herd as well as the national herd.
It is important to realise the following:

  • Biosecurity can function within or separately from the quality assurance programme.
  • Quality assurance cannot function without a proper biosecurity plan.
  • They address different aspects of the industry.

Quality assurance
Successful quality assurance programmes demand that the producer has control over every aspect of his farming enterprise and that it can be monitored and verified.
The primary aspects of quality assurance are:

  • ID of pigs: The farm of origin must be tattooed in an ear and the animal’s age must either be tattooed or clipped
  • Feed control: The producer must be able to prove that the diet he is feeding is of a high quality, that mixing takes place properly, that the correct feed is delivered to the correct animals and that no antibiotics will find their way into the supermarkets.
  • Medicine control:  Strict control over injectable and in-feed medicines.

The secondary aspects of quality assurance are:

  • Access control:  Only people working with the pigs should be allowed to enter the piggery.
  • Pest control:  The most important points are what is done to control the pests and whether it works.
  • Management:  Here we look at the identification of buildings, space allowed per pig and the management of ill animals.
  • Hygiene measures:  Are buildings cleaned properly, how do animals and personnel move around the farm and are facilities available for personnel where they don’t eat amongst the pigs?
  • Dead animals:  Are carcasses disposed of in an acceptable manner?
  • Manure handling:  Type of system used and its effect on the environment.
  • Transport:  Here we look at the loading facilities and the truck.  Is the loading facility built in such a way that loading can be done with minimal stress?  Important aspects regarding the vehicle are floorspace, shade and the presence of separations for bigger trucks.

In a quality assurance programme one must be able to prove that everything is done properly.  It is therefore very important that adequate records are kept.  Some examples are:  visitors, feed deliveries, the use of medication and animal deliveries.
A proper biosecurity plan will assist a farmer in preventing foreign diseases from entering his unit.  The following four points should be kept in mind when implementing a biosecurity plan:
1. Access control

  • The entire unit must have a fence around it.
  • There should be a sign at the gate warning people not to enter.
  • There must be controlled gates where vehicles enter.
  • Everybody must change their clothing before entering the unit.
  • It is compulsory to shower in and out at SPF-units.
  • Pets must stay outside!

2. Pest control
It is very important to control pests because they are carriers of many diseases. Some examples of diseases that can be transmitted are:

  • Influenza – humans, birds
  • Toxoplasmosis – cats
  • Dysentry – dogs, rats
  • Epirythrozoon – mosquitos, biting flies
  • FMD – cloven hoofed animals
  • Lepto – Rodents

3. Management
The movement of people are important. When inspecting the unit one should start at the youngest animals and from there move towards the oldest animals. This is also true for the managers!  To further prevent disease from spreading one must have footbaths at the entrances of the different houses. The disinfectants used in these footbaths should be changed often to remain effective.
4. Nutrition
Feed can also be responsible for the spread of disease.  One must remember that the pig takes it in directly by mouth.  Feed can also be responsible for indirect spread of disease via delivery vehicles and drivers.  If possible feed should be delivered outside the unit, otherwise the drivers should remain in the cab during off-loading.
Some other important aspects regarding biosecurity:

  • Do not feed swill!
  • Only buy replacement stock from reputable dealers and quarantine the animals on arrival for three to four weeks.
  • Do not allow foreign pigs to come in contact with your animals.
  • If different units share equipment, it should be washed and disinfected and pig free for 72 hours.
  • All visitors must change their clothes before entering the unit.
  • Trucks going to the abattoir must be washed at the abattoir and disinfected away from the pigs on return.
  • Drivers must be provided with a different set of clothes for off-loading.  Remember diseases can enter the unit on clothing!
  • Have an honest relationship with suppliers, vets and colleagues.


  • Quality assurance and biosecurity works together!
  • It is possible to deliver good quality pigs without QA and biosecurity but is it worth the risk?

QA protects future markets. Biosecurity protects future herds.

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