On-farm characteristics and biosecurity protocols for small-scale swine producers in eastern Australia

N. Schembri, Marta Hernandez-Jover, J.-A LML Toribio, Patricia Holyoake

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31 Citations (Scopus)


Pigs are considered high risk for the introduction and spread of foot and mouth disease (FMD) in Australia. Facilities where animals from different origins are commingled, such as saleyards, pose a high risk for disease spread. Sound on-farm management practices and biosecurity protocols are the first line of defence against a potential on-farm disease outbreak. This study evaluated the practices of 104 producers (vendors who sold pigs and purchasers of live pigs for grow-out) who traded pigs at 6 peri-urban and rural saleyards in eastern Australia. Specifically, management and on-farm biosecurity practices were assessed using an in-depth questionnaire. Univariable and multivariable logistic regression analyses were used to investigate (1) producer associations: producer type, State, motivation to keep pigs, farm type, gender, years having owned pigs, and the acquisition of formal livestock qualifications; and (2) pig associations: herd size, housing, management (husbandry and feeding) practices and biosecurity (including pig movement) practices. Backyard operations (<20 sows) were undertaken by 60.6% of participants, followed by small-scale pig operations (28.8%; 21–100 sows). Few producers (16.3%) reported residing in close proximity (<5 km) to commercial operations; however, less rural producers had neighbouring hobby pig operations within 5 km of their property (P = 0.033). Motivation for keeping pigs was significantly associated with a number of biosecurity practices. Producers who kept pigs for primary income were more likely to provide footwear precautions (P = 0.007) and ask visitors about prior pig contacts (P = 0.004). Approximately 40% of backyard and small-scale producers reported not having any quarantine practices in place for incoming pigs, compared to only 9.1% among larger producers. The main reasons cited for not adopting on-farm biosecurity practices in this study included having no need on their property (43.1%) and a lack of information and support (by the industry and/or authorities; 18.5%). Up to three-quarters of all producers maintained an open breeding herd, regularly introducing new pigs to the main herd. Saleyards are an important source of income for backyard and small-scale producers as well as an important risk factor for the introduction and dissemination of endemic and emerging animal diseases. Differing management and biosecurity practices as well as the motivations of these producers keeping pigs in small numbers and trading pigs at saleyards need to be taken into account in the development of successful biosecurity extension programmes for this sector of the Australian pork industry.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)104-116
Number of pages13
JournalPreventive Veterinary Medicine
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2015


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