Cleaning and disinfection on pig farms
Breaking the cycle of reinfection on-farm is important when faced with infectious diseases such as swine dysentery or salmonella. An effective way to do this is with a consistently high standard of cleaning and disinfection (C&D).
This should be achievable however standards are often allowed to slip and bad habits creep in. Use this information to make sure your C&D efforts keep infectious diseases at bay.
Cleaning and disinfection: The basics
A C&D plan should form a major part of your veterinary health plan and should be carried out conscientiously.
Producers have known for a long time that buildings can become ‘pig sick’ and continued use can bring about a steady decline in health and performance.
When pigs are met with a high level of infection, they react with an immune response. This response causes growth checks – reducing growth rates and increasing days to slaughter.
The five basic steps of cleaning and disinfection are:
- Remove organic matter
- Use a detergent
The efficacy of disinfectants depends on several factors, including:
- Cleaning/removal of organic matter – Organic matter deactivates disinfectants.
- Ambient temperature – Proper C&D techniques are especially important in cold temperatures, for example the Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome (PRRS) virus can survive and remain infectious for over a week at 4°C.
- Contact time – A longer contact time can, in some cases, enhance the efficacy of disinfectants.
- Pathogen – Use pathogen-specific disinfectants where possible; some pathogens are more susceptible to some disinfectants than others.
The information below should be used to create your own farm's C&D plan, which will feed into your veterinary health plan.
- Remove organic waste, e.g. bedding, muck, feed residue and dust.
- Resist the temptation to keep back any ‘clean’ straw for reuse – it is a reservoir for infection.
- Material below the slats should also be removed; if this is not possible, ensure levels remain at least 30 cm below floor surfaces and that material cannot leak or overflow.
- Take out moveable items, e.g. feeders, drinkers, enrichment, cleaning tools, and clean and disinfect separately.
Remember to isolate electrics
- Clean and disinfect the water system (including the header tank and filters) using a recommended product.
Nipple drinkers can become blocked during this process. Check before putting new pigs into the building
- Do not miss this stage out. A wide range of common pathogens show poor response to disinfectants under high organic load, as the organic matter deactivates the disinfectant.
- A thorough hot pressure wash is not enough to break down the oily biofilm that can protect bacteria from disinfectants. Only a detergent can do this.
- Detergent improves the efficiency of the washing/cleaning and reduce the time needed for pressure washing.
- Soak all surfaces (ceiling, walls, floors and any fixed equipment) with cold water and apply a farm-specific detergent under low pressure; alternatively, use a foam or gel cleaner.
- Soak for at least 30 minutes (preferably longer, e.g. overnight).
How to clean
- Work from top to bottom (ceiling to walls to floors). This avoids any splashing of previously cleaned areas with dirty water.
- Pay attention to out-of-sight and hard-to-reach spots, e.g. fan and ventilation ducts, on top of pipes, light fittings.
- Pressure wash with hot (70ºC or above), clean water. If your pressure washer does not have a hot water option, consider buying one that does.
- Ensure all surfaces and equipment are visibly clean.
- Make sure dirty water drains away freely without contaminating other areas.
- Repair or replace corroded fixtures, surfaces and flooring, as these can harbour germs.
- Any equipment that cannot be pressure washed, such as creep lamps, must be cleaned by hand.
- Allow rooms to dry before applying disinfectant.
- Choose a disinfectant that is suitable for the range of diseases present on your unit; discuss this with your vet. Use Defra’s helpful list of approved disinfectants.
- Make sure you and your staff understand the safety information and take appropriate steps for safe use and disposal of disinfectant.
- Ensure all the necessary protective clothing is worn.
- Make up fresh quantities of disinfectant solution daily and check staff know how to make up the correct concentrations. Be aware that dilution rates can vary with ambient temperature.
- Make sure the disinfectant is compatible with the detergent as well as the microorganisms you are targeting.
- Check that it is appropriate for use, for example one for the pens/building may not be suitable for the water system.
- Disinfectant is usually best applied evenly, under low pressure (e.g. with a knapsack sprayer), until all surfaces are saturated.
- Move methodically through the room/building, paying attention to corners, out-of-sight and hard-to-reach areas.
- Plan the C&D so that there is no need to re-enter the cleaned building/pen before restocking. It takes time and effort to clean and disinfect properly – make sure you don’t undo all your good work!
- Place newly replenished foot dips and brushes outside the clean rooms/buildings. Ensure dips are replenished with suitable disinfectant as soon as they look dirty and at least on a weekly basis regardless of appearance.
- Regularly clean/replace the boot brushes/washers as they can become heavily contaminated.
- Wash and disinfect all equipment (e.g. brushes, weigh crate, moving boards, scrapers) between batches, this is frequently overlooked but crucial to prevent recontamination.
- Launder overalls and clean boots frequently; never enter cleaned and disinfected facilities wearing dirty protective wear.
- Are all chemicals stored and handled as directed?
- Are all chemicals still within the expiration date? This is important as after the expiry date, the product might not work.
- Is the person mixing the chemicals trained/competent?
- Is the person mixing chemicals using suitable personal protective equipment (e.g. goggles)?
- Are the disinfectants Defra-approved?
- Are the disinfectants used at General Orders concentration? Incorrect doses are ineffective.
- Is the disinfectant being mixed in a tank, rather than by using a metering device?
- Have you selected the right product for the job? See table below.
|Type of product||Best for...|
|Cleaning water lines|
- Has all equipment been removed before cleaning? This includes feeders, drinkers and partitions.
- Has all visible debris been removed? Organic matter (muck) blocks the disinfectant, meaning there is less of it to work against the bacteria.
- If you're using a detergent-wash programme and disinfectant, be sure to use products that have a similar pH. The pH can normally be found on the product label.
- Have you considered continuous sanitisation of water (even if mains water is used)? Water lines and drinkers on pig units can become contaminated with a range of bacteria that can cause intestinal infections.
- Have you remembered to clean and disinfect walkways, races or other equipment, such as trolleys, transporters or weighers, used by the pigs during movement between buildings?
- Have you ensured all vehicles are sprayed with a fast-acting disinfectant product?
- Have you paid special attention to wheel arches and pipes of feed lorries?
- Are you cleaning and disinfecting scrapers daily? Avoid using the same scraper between different groups of pigs.
- Do you have a separate scraper for each building? If this is not possible, scrape from younger pigs to older and deal with any groups of sick pigs last.