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Biosecurity Messages Across Minnesota This Summer

By Diane DeWitte, Swine Extension Educator
Originally printed in The Land - June 29, 2018

Like most Minnesota agriculturalists, I enjoy the summer's county fairs and their livestock and, of course, the ultimate competition exhibited at the Minnesota State Fair's youth and open-class swine shows. It's terrific to see so many folks who've worked hard to bring the best pigs in the Midwest to compete in classes of optimum quality peers.

My recent work has focused on livestock biosecurity, particularly in swine, and it always comes to mind when I'm attending pig shows. Of primary importance is that exhibitors return to their animals at home without bringing along a disease. For this reason, the messages of meticulous biosecurity and careful monitoring of animals' health are integral parts of exhibitor education.


The University of Minnesota’s Biosecure Entry & Education Trailer (BEET) has traveled across Minnesota this summer, taking the biosecurity message to 4-H livestock exhibitors. The BEET is used as part of the education for 4-H beef, swine, rabbit and meat goat exhibitors during summer 4-H Livestock Day Camps. Extension Livestock Educators Abby Neu, Sarah Schieck, and Diane DeWitte developed specific biosecurity information related to each of the four species, and set up the BEET as a mock feed room, a rabbit shed, or a pig barn entry, depending on which species exhibitors are visiting it.

4-Hers spent time in the BEET learning how to don and doff barn-specific clothes and boots without bringing disease in from the outside. They practiced biosecure ways to feed and water their animals. They learned how important it is to quarantine new or returning animals; to care for them after they have cared for the “high health” animals in the herd.

4-H exhibitors applied lotion which (unbeknownst to them contained glo-germ) to their hands, and unknowingly stepped through glo-germ powdered shavings as they entered the BEET. Later in the session, when the team turned on a black light and highlighted glowing smudges and fingerprints, it was apparent to everyone how easy it is to spread “germs” with unwashed hands and outside footwear.

4-Hers learned the details of how to keep their animals healthy, and how to prevent and reduce the spread of diseases to their 4-H projects. One important practice repeatedly highlighted was washing hands with soap and water. The minimum recommendation is scrubbing hands thoroughly for 20 seconds, or about the time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday”!

At the end of the day, the BEET team gave each 4-H exhibitor a “Biosecurity Starter Kit”: A five-gallon bucket which contained a bar of soap, a face mask, disposable gloves and disposable boots, a pack of disinfectant wipes and a brush for scrubbing. In addition, the exhibitors received a flash drive bracelet which contained the four-species-specific disease, disinfectant, and biosecurity information.

The 4-H Livestock Day Camps were hosted by the Minnesota 4-H program with collaboration from the Extension Livestock Educators. Extension Educator Abby Neu received an Extension Risk Management grant from USDA to fund biosecurity education at the day camps, and the actual BEET unit is supported by the University of Minnesota Rapid Agricultural Response Fund from the State of Minnesota.

The BEET team also collaborated with Poultry And Livestock Supply (PALS) of Willmar, MN, for acquisition, support and sponsorship of the biosecurity buckets and their contents. The USDA biosecurity grant covers the same educational activities during the summer of 2019 when the 4-H Livestock Day Camps will highlight four additional livestock species. 

The National Pork Board and USDA APHIS (Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service) have collaborated to create the Secure Pork Supply (SPS) plan. The SPS project plans response strategies in the event of a foreign animal disease outbreak in US swine. Minnesota’s Board of Animal Health oversees the Secure Livestock Supply project and has recruited Buffalo, MN veterinarian David Wright to spearhead the Secure Pork Supply plan.

Dr. Wright spent this spring meeting with swine producers and affiliated industry leaders to ensure that SPS becomes an integral part of swine farm health plans. SPS is a voluntary strategy for producers to create their own farm-specific and workable continuity of business plan in the case of a Foreign Animal Disease (FAD) outbreak.

SPS is on the lookout for four particular diseases: foot-and-mouth disease, classical swine fever, swine vesicular disease, and African swine fever. Foot and mouth disease and classical swine fever (hog cholera) were eradicated from the US many years ago and African swine fever has never occurred here.

The scope, efficiency and extensive movement in the US swine industry would present tremendous challenges if a foreign animal disease outbreak occurred. The SPS plan includes biosecurity education, surveillance of animals, and establishment of a movement protocol in the event of an FAD outbreak.

SPS was developed with input from veterinarians, academia from University of Minnesota and Iowa State University, and swine industry leadership in an effort to ensure that the entire US swine production and marketing structure will not be devastated if a foreign animal disease outbreak occurs.

Dr. Wright, collaborating with UM Swine Extension Educator Sarah Schieck, has begun distributing the “Seven Steps to Participate” for pig producers. These steps break down the SPS plan into simple pieces which guide their participation. These seven steps can be found online at this link: or by visiting the University of Minnesota Swine Extension website at


Last summer the National Pork Board released a warning to swine exhibitors to be on the alert for Seneca Valley Virus (SVV). While it’s still early in the 2018 Fair season, it’s not a bad idea to reiterate the importance of watching for SVV.

Blisters (vesicles) at the coronary band are common clinical signs. The pig’s coronary band is the extremely vascular area where the hoof meets the hairline on the animal’s foot. When SVV was found in a Minnesota sow herd in 2015, the factor which caught the barn manager’s attention was lameness in the sows. They had developed painful blisters at their feet.

The main concern about SVV is that it looks very similar to foot and mouth disease (a FAD) and the only way to know the difference is by veterinary diagnostic testing. Producers and exhibitors who find blisters on their pigs or see any of the other clinical signs should get their veterinarian involved immediately.

Seneca Valley Virus can spread from pig to pig through direct contact, or can be spread by boots, brushes, or other equipment. As in response to any pig illness, the affected animal should be isolated from healthy pigs. No pigs showing signs of SVV should be sent to a show or to market.

The Morrison Swine Health Monitoring Project (MSHMP) at the University of Minnesota has collected SVV incidence data and suggests that Seneca Valley Virus appears to have a seasonal pattern with the number of cases increasing at the end of July. 


This summer’s county fairs and the Minnesota State Fair are terrific places to view livestock competitions and visit with old friends. Exhibitors should watch for of any changing health issues in their pigs, including coughing, diarrhea, fever or blisters. If a pig shows any of these signs, contact a veterinarian immediately.

Producers visiting the fairs must be diligent about changing clothes and footwear before returning to the pigs at home. Any site where unrelated animals congregate is a place for potential disease pickup. Thorough hand-washing during and after a visit to the fair can destroy disease organisms and reduce the chance of taking a disease back home. Don’t be surprised if you hear “Happy Birthday” being sung at the sink!

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