It is important to reduce the chance of disease entering pig units and to break the cycle of infection. Whether following a thorough clean at turnaround, or for boot dips outside houses, disinfectants are an essential product on pig farms. However, many people are not using them to their best advantage; as such, biosecurity is compromised and money wasted. This article details seven practical tips to improve the effectiveness of disinfectants.

1. Cleaning

Liberal application of disinfectants does not make up for poor cleaning. All surfaces, housing and equipment should be thoroughly cleaned before disinfection. First, the organic matter -- feces, bedding, feed, etc. -- should be removed as it is highly contaminated. Following this, a suitable detergent cleaner should be used to further reduce the level of infective material. “You can’t disinfect muck, and each gram of organic matter contains thousands if not millions of bacteria and viruses,” stated Nigel Bennet, business development manager, Kilco. “Also, don’t forget to clean any moveable equipment.” For boot dips, the same theory applies; a bucket of water and brush should be provided to clean boots before they are dipped in disinfectant.

2. Suitability

The question needs to be asked -- "What am I trying to achieve with this disinfectant for this job?" Some disinfectants are designed to kill particular pathogens or be used for a specific purpose. Therefore, what works well in boot dips may not be appropriate for disinfecting the sow stalls. “For surface disinfection, choose a broad spectrum disinfectant active against viruses, bacteria, fungi and other pathogenic organisms,” advised Nigel.

3. Application

It is essential that all surfaces are wet with disinfectant so it can act against the pathogens. A knapsack sprayer or pressure washer is often the most appropriate way to achieve a thorough application. “Staff should pay particular attention to corners, cracks and seams,” highlighted Nigel. “Porous surfaces such as wood and concrete should be treated particularly carefully.” For most products, a contact time of 10 minutes is required and the use of a foaming type product can help to achieve this. Fogging or aerial disinfection should be considered to reach un-accessible areas and kill any re-introduced pathogens.

4. Drying and recontamination

It is of paramount importance that the buildings and equipment are allowed to thoroughly dry before new pigs are moved in. Microorganisms need water to survive, so the drying step will kill off any remaining. Ideally allowing one to two days, depending on climate, for this process will help break the disease transmission cycle. Using un-washed equipment or staff wearing dirty clothing, can bring pathogens back into the building. Foot dips and other biosecurity procedures should remain in place during cleaning.

5. Drinking water system

Header tanks, pipelines and drinkers will all be contaminated with pathogens. The formation of biofilms in these systems makes their treatment a particular challenge. Thorough cleaning and disinfection of these systems ensures clean safe drinking water for the next batch of pigs. “A chlorine dioxide-based product is one of the best for removal of biofilms,” recommended Nigel. “It is important that the dilution is correct so that the product can be detected from source to drinker.” Following disinfection acidification if the water is often recommended to help control microbes in the water system and reduce the formation of biofilms.

6. Dilution and temperature

It may seem obvious, but always read the label. Different products will require different levels of dilution and rates may vary dependent on the method of application. They may also vary depending on the hardness of the water used. Supplying accurate measuring devices will help to ensure accurate dilution, along with easy access to product manuals if labels become unreadable. Temperature affects the efficacy of detergents. For example, when filling wheel sprayers in the winter, the disinfectant should be carefully chosen if it is expected to be below freezing. The addition of a propylene glycol anti-freeze may be required and/or dilutions adjusted.

7. Protection and training

Staff won’t be keen to use a product if their eyes are streaming or it makes them cough. Disinfectants are powerful chemicals, and appropriate protection should be used. The job is much more likely to get done to a high standard if they feel comfortable and safe completing the task have asked of them. “Providing training so that staff understand the products they are using and what they are trying to achieve is key,” said Nigel.

Benefits of effective disinfection

Whatever the production system in place, all buildings or rooms should be regularly emptied, cleaned and disinfected. This prevents the carryover of pathogens, ensuring a fresh start for the next batch of pigs. An effective disinfection program reduces disease incidence and improves performance. Reviewing farm procedures for disinfection, in line with the seven areas, can help to identify areas for improvement, making sure that money isn’t being poured down the drain.