Biosecurity Preparedness, Infectious Disease Prevention, and Farmer Training on Northern New England Swine Farms

Progress report for ONE20-364

Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2020: $29,270.00
Projected End Date: 05/31/2023
Grant Recipient: Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry
Region: Northeast
State: Maine
Project Leader:
Carolyn Hurwitz
Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry
Carol Delaney, M.S.
Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry
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Project Information


It's common practice for small scale, commercial swine operators in Northern New England to raise their pigs outdoors where they have contact with wildlife, supplement hog diets with human food waste products, comingle swine with other livestock species and observe minimally restrictive farm visitation policies. Termed  “transitional” style hog management, these practices are typically associated with low biosecurity investments and may leave Northern New England producers particularly vulnerable to infectious disease introductions to their herds. Transitional hog management practices are often in conflict with established livestock biosecurity recommendations, which are most commonly employed in large scale, confinement hog systems. We proposed that unrecognized infectious diseases threats play a critical role in transitional swine producers' decision not to employ recognized biosecure management protocols, rather than a lack of awareness of biosecurity principles. The objectives of this project were (1) to document and analyze the industry characteristics and behaviors of Northern New England transitional swine producers relative to infectious disease and biosecurity management; and (2) to train participants in biosecurity management and document improvement in biosecurity practice. A swine disease surveillance study was conducted in parallel to the behavior analysis to provide a collective view of this industry's herd health status and serve as the basis for creating relevant, relatable outreach materials for preventative herd health management. 



Project Objectives:

The primary objective of  this project is to document, analyze and improve the management of Northern New England transitional swine farms relative to infectious disease biosecurity practice.  Participating farmers will be trained on effective principles of biosecurity tailored to their farm’s infrastructure and goals.

The secondary objective of surveying the regional swine herd for endemic infectious disease will provide the basis to create outreach materials for preventative herd health management. The results of individual herd disease surveillance studies will reinforce the importance of biosecurity practice on that farm and the collective results will provide accurate, regionally specific disease prevalence information to industry support groups such as veterinarians, Cooperative Extensions and Departments of Agriculture in Northern New England.

If this project is successful swine producers in the region will have the tools necessary to maintain or improve their swine herd’s health and productivity, even in the face of emerging and endemic diseases. Farmers will be armed with known methods for preventing locally identified infectious diseases and possible, future Foreign Animal Disease (FAD) introductions. Lastly, the results of this study may be utilized to provide an accurate representation of the Northern New England swine herd and may serve as a model for use in other states or for expanding disease surveillance activities in the region as may be supported by future funding opportunities.


African Swine Fever is an emerging Foreign Animal Disease (FAD) currently circulating in Europe and Asia. According to the OIE’s March 26 2020 report (1) , over 42,000 pigs were lost in Asia alone over a two-week period, with wild boar and backyard swine playing a significant role in the epidemiology of this disease. The North American hog industry is bracing for the possible introduction of ASF and is actively looking to mitigate current risk sources, including feral and backyard or "transitional" swine. In this regard, the Northern New England swine industry poses a threat to the biosecurity of the national swine industry. This is because most Northern New England swine producers raise their pigs outdoors, feed human food waste products and allow domestic swine to comingle with wildlife and other livestock species. These practices are contrary to the recommended biosecurity practices which are already in place in the larger confinement hog industry. 

In addition to minimal preventative biosecurity practices, it is generally uncommon that smaller scale hog producers seek a specific cause of herd production loss through diagnostic investigation. This results in a lack of awareness surrounding the specific infectious disease threats in our region, possibly contributing to the perception that biosecurity practice is not a crucial component of successful livestock management. A compounding factor to this situation may be that of the 53 veterinary practices on the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry (ME DACF) Large Animal Vet List, only three identify swine as a species their business services. More evidence of this apparent lack of veterinary support has come from swine producers requesting consults from the DACF on general animal management issues despite services from the Department being regulatory in nature. A 2019 survey (2) of transitional (outdoor) swine herds in New York State confirmed that producers generally feel that skilled veterinary support for their swine operations is limited.

The USDA National Animal Health Monitoring System (NAHMS) reported several concerning trends with respect to swine health and management on small swine farms in the Northeast. (3).  The report describes “Despite porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS) being widely dispersed throughout the swine industry, no operations … reported a known or suspected problem with the disease in sows, gilts, or weaned pigs…Nearly 10 percent of operations ... did report difficulties with Mycoplasma pneumonia in their weaned pigs. Perhaps there is some confusion between the two diseases, since about 50 percent of all operations reported no familiarity with PRRS.” This is a concerning conclusion because this chronic viral disease of pigs is likely more prevalent than producers are aware of, aiding its spread in our region and continued negative impact on the productivity and welfare of swine. 

Diseases of high consequence that are not yet present in Northern New England or the United State are preferentially responded to with effective preventative action. Our solution will provide swine producers and veterinarians access to regionally specific swine disease prevalence information and biosecurity education to aid development and adoption of an affordable, effective preventative health care plan for their herd. 


Click linked name(s) to expand/collapse or show everyone's info
  • Leslie Forstadt (Researcher)
  • Colt Knight (Educator)
  • Farmers 1 Maine - Producer
  • Farmer 2 Maine - Producer
  • Farmer 3 Maine - Producer
  • Farmer 5 Maine - Producer
  • Farmer 6 Maine - Producer
  • Farmer 7 Maine - Producer
  • Farmer 8 Maine - Producer
  • Farmer 9 Maine - Producer
  • Farmer 1 New Hampshire - Producer
  • Farmer 2 New Hampshire - Producer


Materials and methods:

Objective 1: Farm Biosecurity Evaluation and Farmer Training 

Recruitment and surveying

The initial study period (September-October 2020) was spent designing  the study survey design and content and creating the partner farmer enrollment forms. These forms were drafted in alignment with State of Maine liability policy and fiscal procedures and with Northeast SARE's requirements.

A list of prospective partner farmers was compiled based on historical collaboration with Extension staff in Maine and New Hampshire, private practitioner recommendation, industry group recommendation and internet searches for “pastured pork producers” in Maine and New Hampshire. In total, 32 farmers were sent an email to invite interest in participating in the project, with a follow up phone call if an email response was received.  Most farmers were busy and appreciated the follow-up calls to further explain the project and build context for this study. Phone communication proved a more successful method of contact for most farmers, likely due to the overwhelming volume of emails received in the course of daily business. The initial time period of enlistment stretched from October to the end of December 2020.  From this enrollment effort, 14 partner farmers were recruited and successfully completed the project enrollment forms and two introductory surveys. Four of these enrolled farms ultimately declined to complete the project, dropping from the study after the surveys or the instructional webinar. Reasons for dropping out included time constraints, herd health concerns, a family medical emergency, and unknown due to a failure to return communication. 

The study surveys were delivered by email using Google Forms (13) or in hard copy (1) as each partner farmer preferred.  The first survey distributed was a Participant Farm Profile, intended to capture information about the size and management of each farm. (See paper version of farmer profile survey below).  The second survey was the Farm Biosecurity Profile, intended to assess initial biosecurity knowledge and practice. (See paper version of Biosecurity survey below).  The surveys were entered into a Google Form for distribution which caused some of the questions to change slightly to conform to the restricted choices of response types in Google Forms.

The two surveys and enrollment forms were all delivered to participants together by email to condense the number of contacts required of the partner farmers and improve the rate of response. The responses to these surveys demonstrate the current level of biosecurity practice implemented on their farms and elucidate participant’s current knowledge of biosecurity principles.

Participant training

The project leaders called a meeting in December to analyze the preliminary results of the project's first two surveys. This meeting included the project leaders along with Colt Knight and Leslie Forstadt from the University of Maine.  The meeting was a web-based collaboration in observance of prevailing COVID 19 transmission prevention practice. This discussion focused on how best to summarize the data received via survey response and what valuable correlations may be identified. A secondary takeaway from this meeting was a discussion of how to use survey responses to shape the content and delivery style of the project's webinar. For example, no farm reported having a written biosecurity plan, so this item was incorporated into the design of the webinar.

We analyzed survey results to determine if biosecurity practice is directly related to biosecurity knowledge, or if producers are aware of more biosecurity principles than they report practicing. We hoped to isolate which biosecurity practices are commonly accepted and identify barriers to those recommended practices which are not.

The Swine Health and Biosecurity webinar was developed collaboratively by the Maine DACF research team and UMaine partners. Representatives from the University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension and the New Hampshire Department of Food and Markets were invited to attend the webinar. The seminar was delivered via electronic meeting (Zoom) in January 2021, during which participating farmers remained anonymous while tuning in and contributing answers to audience poll questions throughout the event. The webinar content included a summary of the project's introductory survey results, with associated visuals to highlight response frequencies on topics such as farm management, farm type, biosecurity practice and farmer demographics.  This information was presented as a collective summary so as not to identify any individual partner farmer. The remainder of the webinar focused on biosecurity training for a lay person audience. The presentation introduced 5 major livestock disease transmission routes using examples relevant to northern New England swine farms, followed by summary and specific examples of how to implement basic biosecurity principles to mitigate disease introduction via these pathways. Partner farmers completed live "poll" questions throughout the webinar to gauge their understanding of the information presented, to gather more detail on some of the trends highlighted in the study's first two surveys, and to capture changes in opinion or learning. Prior to the webinar, all participants were mailed hard-copy biosecurity plan templates and sanitation guidance for note-taking during the presentation: 

  1. Disinfectant Use Charts – from the Center for Food Security and Public Health colorful charts on “Characteristics of Selected Disinfectants” and “The Antimicrobial Spectrum of Disinfectants”
  2. Biosecurity Plan Template – fillable pdf format from the Healthy Farms Healthy Agriculture website
  3. Checklist for Outdoor Pigs – from Secure Pork Supply ”Self-Assessment Checklist for Enhanced Pork Production Biosecurity: Animals with Outdoor Access (2109)”

Farmer Participant Profile

Biosecurity Survey

The webinar was recorded again after the live presentation using the Zoom platform.  In the Outreach section below, find a copy of the pdf of the PPT used for the Northeast SARE Swine Biosecurity webinar and link to the recording.

On-farm biosecurity evaluations

The field study phase of this project included a real time observation of each farm's biosecurity management practices. Partner farmers were interviewed on their farm biosecurity practices using a Biosecurity Assessment template from the Healthy Farms Healthy Agriculture website: Though several outdoor swine biosecurity audit forms where available, the HFHA form was chosen because of it's extensive investigation of common farm management practices characteristic of small farms in the Northeast. Ultimately however, we found that the HFHA assessment tool was too long and contained redundancy that did not enhance the value of the audit. The length of the survey made it cumbersome to fill out in the field.

We completed the HFHA evaluation through a combination of candid conversation and observation of each farm's management style along with structured conversation guided by the survey questions. The evaluation phase worked well as a two-person endeavor: in general, one investigator led the structured assessment by asking the survey's questions at the appropriate site on the farm and the other prompted the farmer to offer more information on their management style. This portion of the visit took from 1 to 2 hours, based on the interest and time constraints of the farmer being interviewed.

Most partner farmers seemed to remain interested in this audit process and used it as a learning tool, asking questions of the researchers and seeking feedback on current or planned farm management practices. During these conversations, we refrained from making specific herd health recommendations such as vaccination plans, instead focusing more broadly on farm infrastructure and management goals that would improve overall farm biosecurity. These farm-specific comments were captured as a typed addendum to each farm's complete HFHA audit form. The addendum and completed audit were provided to each participant within 7-10 days of the site visit. All participants were encouraged to consider the biosecurity audit summary in light of the results of their herd's infectious disease surveillance testing data, and partner with their farm's veterinarian to develop a customized disease control plan.

Before leaving each farm, the participant farmer was presented with a supply of basic biosecurity tools intended to help them implement the recommendations discussed with the research team. This biosecurity tool kit included: signage indicating authorized parking areas and restricted access areas, two boot wash tubs and long handle bristle- brushes, and where relevant, weather resistant public health signage educating farm visitors on disease prevention practice. 

Explaining biosecurity signage to place around pig housing areas
Boot wash tubs and brushes given to encourage more biosecurity measures that are easy to institute.

Measuring farmer learning and management changes

A final, "post-intervention" biosecurity survey was developed by the main research team with critical input and review from our collaborators at the University of Maine Cooperative Extension. This survey aimed to capture feedback on the utility of the educational materials provided, the farm-specific surveillance and audit data and changes in learning and farm management practices. The survey was delivered electronically via the same Google Forms format as the study's first two surveys. This final biosecurity survey was delivered to partner farmers to complete no sooner than four (4) months after their site visit to allow time for consideration and implementation of the research team's recommendations. While most surveys were submitted within a week of reception (we gave a 2-week deadline), we did have to continue to remind farmers until the last 2 submitted during 3 to 4 weeks post sending of the survey link.

Biosecurity Survey II_FINAL

Objective 2: Infectious Disease Surveillance Study

On-farm disease surveillance

On-farm biosecurity assessments and herd surveillance testing were conducted between January and July 2021. Direct phone calls were made to each participant to ascertain possible dates they would be available for this site visit, including considerations for animal management that would be conducive to handling and restraint of adult swine. This phone interview included assessment of:

  • designated parking areas,
  • comfort with use of the snare to restrain pigs,
  • permission for photos and video and
  • approval of attendance of other veterinarians. 

A reminder email was sent to the participant within 5 days of the visit to confirm the time and personnel involved as well as any recent concerns for COVID-19 exposure.

Each visit took place starting at 9 or 10 am in the morning to be done by noon or 1 pm.  Preparation included assembling supplies for sampling:

  • 16 G x 4 inch needle with 12 cc disposable syringes
  • Red top blood tubes (no additive) 
  • Sterile synthetic (dacron) swabs (2 per animal) 
  • Rectal swab vials: 5 samples/pool in 5 cc phosphate buffered saline  
  • Tonsilar swab vial: 5 samples/pool in 5 cc phosphate buffered saline
  • Fecal sample vials 
  • Commercial hog snare 
  • Commercial hog oral speculum (large)
  • Collapsible metal camp table 
  • Sharps container 
  • clean coveralls (machine washed and dried on high for a minimum of 20 minutes)
  • sanitized boots soaking in disinfectant solution (Virkon)
  • disposable nitrile gloves 
  • ear plugs, eye protection
  • log book
  • styrofoam cooler and frozen ice pack

Sampling focused on mature swine as defined by attaining the age of 4 months or greater, with a preference for those herd members identified as "breeder swine" due to their presumed longevity in the herd's population. Mature swine were the preferred sample group as they would be more likely to reflect the herd's stable disease profile through serology testing. In all herds, any pig meeting the age requirement was included in the surveillance group as all herd sizes were small enough to prevent excluding any eligible animals. This resulted in a maximum of 23 pigs and a minimum of 9 pigs sampled at a single site. The cumulative sample size (185 pigs) fell well short of the projected 300 pigs intended; however, this sample size is still statistically valid based on an assumed average disease prevalence of 2.00% and a statewide inventory of 4700 hogs (NASS) according to the USDA Sample Size Calculation Matrix.


Blood sampling technique
Protection from herd mates during sampling 
Tonsil swab sampling with oral speculum. 

Animal handling and sampling collection was performed in accordance with industry standards and protocols for USDA program disease surveillance. At no point were the animals involved in the study removed from their farm of origin or under the care of the study investigators. Pigs for sampling were confined in small groups or singly in the smallest space possible within the available infrastructure. To safely snare one pig in a group of pigs, the farmer and others were enlisted to use pig boards to manage interference from the other animals. This protected both the sampler and the contained animal. If a sow was nursing piglets, she was removed from their area before attempting to place the snare. The snare was applied to the upper portion of the snout and secured behind the canines. The snare was operated by a member of the research team or handed off to the animal owner in cases where they wished to participate. Care was taken to apply steady back pressure in a manner that safely controlled the animal and positioned the head for safe and successful blood collection.

  • 10 cc of blood was collected from the jugular vein or vena cava and was allowed to clot at room temperature for 1-3 hours.
  • Rectal swabs were collected by rotating the dacron swab against the rectal lining and collected into pooled sample tubes, 5 pigs per submission.
  • Nasal swabs were collected by insertion of dacron swabs into the nares and rotating the head of the swab firmly against the lining of the nasal cavity. Both nares were sampled and swabs were collected into pooled sample tubes, 5 pigs per submission.

Test sensitivity was increased for the final 7 herds by adapting the nasal swab technique through use of the oral speculum and collecting tonsillar swabs instead. The oral speculum was inserted under the upper canines and rotated downwards against the lower jaw to leverage the mouth open for access to the soft palate. The head of the swab was scraped firmly across the tonsillar area and samples were pooled 5 animals/ collection jar. Rectal swab and nasal/tonsillar swabs were agitated in phosphate buffered saline (PBS), the swab was discarded and the inoculated solution was stored on ice (chilled, not frozen).  A fresh, environmental fecal sample was collected to represent the intestinal parasite exposure of the sample group. Approximately 10 grams of fresh fecal material was collected into a clean 20ML sample collection jar and stored on ice (chilled, not frozen). All samples were labeled with the sample type, farm name, date of collection and individual animal ID. These ranged from animal names, identifying characteristics, ear notch numbers, farm management ear tags or official ID ear tags. Samples were delivered to the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry State and Federal Diagnostic Lab for storage and subsequent shipment to the Iowa State Veterinary Diagnostic Lab. The diseases and test types included in our final surveillance program were:

  • Lawsonia intracellularis ELISA,
  • Influenza A Virus NP ELISA,
  • M. hyopneumoniae PCR,
  • Circovirus INgezim,
  • Brachyspira SD Screen PCR,
  • TGEV/PRCV Differential ELISA,
  • M. hyorhinis IgG ELISA,
  • Fecal Float

Site visit follow-up: Disease landscape

Complete results from each herd surveillance testing effort were generally available within 7-10 days. The raw surveillance report was shared by email with the participant farmer along with the HFHA audit and narrative format recommendations addendum. Participants were most interested in discussing the surveillance results, and these conversations ranged from 30 minutes to 2 hours. Questions regarding disease ecology, treatment and vaccine options and requests for referral for a farm veterinarian were the most common topics visited in these discussions. Most participants verbalized appreciation for the information and time spent both on the farm and in the follow up discussion. 

Herd surveillance data was collected into a single table to reflect the prevalence of these targeted diseases on a population level. The collectivized information prevented identification of any one participant farm and suggested regional herd health characteristics that are distinct from those known about commercial swine herds in the Midwest. This collective information was presented to regional groups at conferences, continuing education events and producer group annual meetings. 

Research results and discussion:

Objective 1: Farm Biosecurity Evaluation and Farmer Training


Fourteen partner farmers enrolled in the project and completed the initial surveys. Four participants did not complete all components of the project, and the final survey collected responses from ten remaining participants. The summarized results of the initial surveys are below (Biosecurity 1 and Partner Farmer Profile as summarized using Google Poll).

SUMMARY_FINAL_Swine Biosecurity Survey 1

FINAL SUMMARY_Partner Farmer Profile

The Partner Farmer Profile survey captured basic information about partner farmer demographics and their farm management practices: 

  • The range in maximum number of pigs varied from 30 to 650 head, which is considered very small by commercial industry standards. This implies different infectious disease risks and disease prevention styles may be recommended.
  • 60% of farmers identified their operation as "farrow to finish" which means all age groups are continued on one location. This differs from commercial industry practice which typically focuses on a single production class at each facility. This difference in production system may be associated with different infectious disease risks and different disease prevention styles may be recommended. 
  • Close to 80% of the farmers fell in the age range of 30 to 49 years and were evenly distributed by years of experience from 0 to 20 years.  This was expected to correlate with a more tech savvy and social media friendly group who may also be inclined to learn from one another using these technologies.
  • Farmers reported seeking information regarding swine management mainly through internet searches, other farmers, veterinarians, books, and Cooperative Extension/Universities/Experts. 60% reported that they belonged to an industry association
  • Almost 80% sold piglets and pigs directly from their farm and the same percent report participating in retail sales of pork products directly from their farm. The next most significant pork marketing opportunity reported was "wholesale" and "other" 
  • One farm was certified organic
  • Almost 20% of farmers reported that they did not contract with a farm veterinarian. Based on participant feedback gathered during the project this was more commonly due to perceived lack of need or utility rather than lack of opportunity 
  • All but one response indicated that they raised other livestock on their farm with the most common types being poultry (chickens, ducks, turkeys) followed by cattle then sheep, goats, llamas. Comingling of livestock species carries increased risk for direct or indirect contamination with infectious disease agents, and is particularly concerning with respect to shared influenza viruses between swine and poultry. This may be one distinguishing and significant feature of small scale swine production systems in the Northeast. 

The Swine Biosecurity Survey collected information about responders' operational management, preventative herd health practices and disease transmission risk awareness:

  • 60% permitted off-farm visitors access to the swine management areas and of those, 50% report visitors are allowed direct access to the pigs.
  • While the farmers report practicing basic biosecurity when visiting other swine operations, such as washing and disinfecting footwear, they did not report requiring that of visitors coming to their farms.
  • The majority of responders (85%) offered outdoor swine housing, including pasture and woodlots. For those animals that were not exclusively housed outdoors, the pigs at least had free access to the outdoors.  Four responders report seasonal confinement of their hogs with open/natural ventilation. These housing practices exemplify an important difference between these example Northern New England transitional swine herds and confinement raised industry swine. This lack of environmental control in the NNE swine population is a significant consideration for disease prevention and control planning. 
  • Due to this emphasis on outdoor raising, all the farms agreed their pigs had potential contact with wildlife like rodents and birds.
  • 85% of respondents felt only "Somewhat Confident" or "Not Confident" about being well-protected from contagious disease vs. 15 % feeling "Confident" or "Very Confident".
  • The three most common reasons responders cited to explain low levels of biosecurity on their farms were: 1. Expensive 2. Too Time Consuming 3. Don't Know Which Recommendations Are Right for My Farm.

Using the results of these two Pre-Study surveys, the study team designed a 2-hour Swine Biosecurity Training webinar intended to resonate with the reported philosophical and managerial characteristics of the audience. The webinar addressed some of the participants' unique situations and perceptions and described the "how" and "why" of farm biosecurity using familiar or likely scenarios. 

Healthy Farms Healthy Agriculture Biosecurity Audit (On Farm Assessment) was used as an additional tool for site specific biosecurity training for study participants. A copy of the completed Healthy Farms Healthy Agriculture (HFHA) farm biosecurity audit and site specific recommendations addendum was returned within 7-10 days of the farm visit. Delivering these recommendations in tandem with the farm's infectious disease surveillance testing report provided a concrete point of reference for the significance of this biosecurity evaluation. In addition to a variety of site-specific observations and recommendations, every participant was uniformly encouraged to (1) assign a site biosecurity coordinator, (2) develop a site map indicating the Perimeter Buffer Area and Line(s) of Separation, and (3) implement or increase signage on site to inform visitors, customers and service providers of the site's biosecurity protocols. To support participant efforts in implementing this last recommendation, the research team produced and distributed custom Farm Biosecurity signage using photos of the pigs in this study. The design of these signs was intended to connect with the farm operators and potential farm guests by featuring heritage breed pigs in familiar environments with simple biosecurity messages.

This on farm evaluation and the Final Biosecurity Survey (See "Post Study" report) revealed two additional areas commonly identified for biosecurity improvement: (1) manure and mortality management and (2) quarantine practices for new or sick animals. Specific recommendations were provided to each farm to assist with maximizing their current infrastructure and resources in these categories.  


Instead of repeating the exact questions we asked in the preliminary Biosecurity Survey, we designed new survey questions to capture indications of change in knowledge or biosecurity practice, as well any new intentions to implement practices learned about during the project. 10 of the original 14 partner farmers completed the entire project. A modest research participation stipend was provided to all partner farmers that completed the project, which may have positively contributed to the 100% response rate achieved for this final survey. Highlights of the final biosecurity survey results and accompanying analysis are presented below: 

Reporting of Biosecurity Practice Post Project Intervention: Which of the following biosecurity practices (17) are in place on your farm? We identified the following 10/17 biosecurity practices that were common for the study group, as determined by 6 or more respondents answering “Yes”:


Yes, not a new practice

Yes, a new practice

No, I don’t do it now

No, will implement

Keep records when I buy or sell pigs






Keep pig herd production records





Have a herd vaccination protocol





Quarantine protocol in place for new pigs





Mortality disposal plan for multiple adult carcasses





Isolation protocol in place for sick pigs





No plate food waste allowed to pigs





Hog feed is secure from insects, rodents, and birds





Disinfection plan for equipment





Worker protocol to use clean boots and outerwear





The results of this survey question highlighted a few areas of disagreement between self reported practice and that observed by the research team as guided by the HFHA evaluation. For example, while participants understood the need, reason and how to quarantine and isolate new or sick animals, field observations indicated that few sites were able to implement best practices for true animal quarantine. Additionally, most participants believed they had the ability to handle disposal of multiple adult pig carcasses via compost in the event of acute death or disease outbreak. In this case as well the research team found that best practice composting was not being implemented; rather manure piling and carcass burial was the norm.

In response to these observations, the research team  developed a 1-page Quarantine Checklist and hosted an in-person learning opportunity featuring a nutrient management specialist from the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry and a composting subject matter expert from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. This learning opportunity also featured guests from regional farm service support agencies such as NRCS, FSA, and the University of Maine Cooperative Extension.

A lingering biosecurity gap: Do you prohibit mixing of other livestock with pigs?


Yes, not a new practice

Yes, a new practice

No, I don’t do it now

No, will implement

Prohibit mixing of other livestock with my pigs





Most farmers allow mixing of livestock with their pigs, with 6 of 10 farmers claiming this practice.  Free range poultry (various species) and pets were most commonly reported and observed while conducting the HFHA survey. This practice remained despite education from the study team delivered through the Biosecurity Webinar, the on-farm biosecurity assessment and written follow up recommendations. This practice may persist due to cultural values, infrastructure limitations, skepticism regarding the risks or other unknown reasons. 

Six New Biosecurity Practices:  We identified the following recommended biosecurity practices that were or will be newly adopted by study participants. These are areas where we feel the study made headway in learning and behavior changes: 


Yes, not a new practice

Yes, a new practice

No, I don’t do it now

No, will implement

Have a site map of my farm





On-farm signage to inform visitors of protocol





Assigned biosecurity coordinator





Have a herd veterinarian





Visitor protocol that assesses visitor risk





Visitor protocol that limits direct contact with pigs





Where we noticed the most inroads in terms of change of practice or intention to change a practice from this study were in the categories of (1) protocol for visitors and (2) starting a biosecurity plan with an assigned coordinator and a site map.  To further support these preferentially adopted practices, the study team developed a single page Farm Visitors Checklist guidance document, and advertised "Biosecurity Office Hours" with the Maine DACF Livestock Specialist (Carol Delaney) for free biosecurity planning consults.

Additionally, two farmers had reported a new working relationship with a veterinarian and one planned to find one in the next year.  This represents a 30% positive change in producer connection to swine veterinary resources, which we hope will support continued herd health and improve the pig health promotion practices of the farmers. 

Partner Farmers self assessment: Through multiple biosecurity education components of this project, we hoped to teach participant farmers new biosecurity practices as well as identify what practices they may already have in place, whether or not they were recognized as "biosecurity." The following open-ended survey questions asked participants to identify their farms biosecurity strengths and weaknesses, drawing on their post-project intervention knowledge: 

Regarding farm biosecurity strengths, the follow three strategies were commonly described by responders:

  1. Isolation
  2. Sanitation
  3. Management 

Farmer biosecurity strengths

We also asked participants to reflect upon their farms biggest biosecurity weaknesses. 5/10 responders identified farm visitors as their farm's highest biosecurity risk. The second most commonly identified biosecurity risk was herd exposure to wildlife or other livestock in contact with their pigs.  

Farmers biosecurity weakness

Infectious Disease Surveillance Test Reporting: In this final biosecurity survey we also solicited information from study partner farmers about their experience in the project and perceived value of participation. Some participants expressed that they had made significant time or financial investments in herd genetics and were motivated to protect this product and related markets. Additionally, small scale swine production with limited opportunities to capture efficiency is associated with significant costs, so disease prevention and control is necessarily one of the foremost concerns of NNE commercial pig farmers in limiting further challenge to these fragile production systems. 

Expectation diseases

The majority of partner farmers indicated that the results of the infectious disease surveillance testing of their herd was in agreement with their assumptions. It's important to note that initial study surveys attempted to gather information about which disease agents the participants felt knowledgeable enough about to design a specific prevention plan for, including many agents that were part of this project's surveillance plan. Most participants did not specifically claim knowledge about these agents, so it's likely their assumptions were based on more general conclusion such as "freedom free disease" vs awareness of their herd's specific infection status relative to control practice needs or vulnerabilities. The value of these surveillance reports is to add specificity to these producer's assumptions about their herd's health status in order to direct their efforts in disease prevention to the most necessary and efficient methods. 

We also assessed whether partner farmers would want to continue this surveillance testing program with their herds as an indication of their valuation of this information. We first assessed if they would participate again in infectious disease surveillance activities if offered again with full external funding, and answer was a resounding 100% “Yes." To test the strength of their resolve and the value they placed on the disease surveillance testing, we then assessed whether partner farmers would again participate in infectious disease surveillance if there was no external funding available, and the response of “Yes” dropped to just 20% and the majority of responders chose “Maybe”.  It was encouraging that no farmer chose “no”.  

To ascertain the barrier to continuing disease surveillance we assessed: “What barriers may prevent you from participating in regular, live-animal disease surveillance testing on your farm?” The multiple choice answers options included: Cost, Containing/Handling my pigs, Do not like the snare being used on my pigs, Do not want to have other people on my farm, Do not know who I could call to have this done, Takes too much time, Do not think this is valuable, Worry that it would cause unwanted attention to my pigs from regulators, customers, other farmers, etc. or Other. All responders indicated that cost was the major barrier to their initiation of this type of investigation: 

Barriers to disease testing

Once the cost of such a program is shifted to the farmer, they could not commit to continuation of this annual surveillance. Of note, the actual cost of the diagnostics performed in this study was not shared with study participants. Therefore, this question was answered based on the partner farmers' previous experience contracting with private practice veterinarians or their assumptions about the cost of this service. One possible area for future investigation could aim to elucidate the factors considered by NNE swine farmers in assessing their financial threshold or factors considered when making these decisions about seeking veterinary involvement for herd management versus herd illness or production issues.  No farmers reported hesitancy about handling their pigs or allowing other people on their farms. Partner farmers did indicate that they felt the information was valuable and worth their time investment to assist in sample collection since they did not choose those responses as barriers.

Partner Farmer Confidence in Swine Herd Protection was assessed following surveillance testing and delivery of biosecurity education and training: 

Perceived protection against disease

The diseases that appear to be of least concern to the study group are those categorized as Foreign Animal Diseases (FADs): Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) and African Swine Fever (ASF). While of low concern to the study group, these FADs are of high concern and importance to USDA and State Departments of Agriculture. It's unclear if partner farmers are not concerned about these diseases because they feel well informed and actively protected from these disease introductions or if they are dismissive of this risk. This is an important potential area for further investigation in this population of livestock producers.  

Swine Influenza (70%) followed by PRRS and Circovirus (both 60%) then Mycoplasma (50%) were the diseases of highest concern to the study population. Circovirus and Mycoplasma were revealed to be common endemic infectious agents in our region, thus it is understandable that participants would rate them highly as a threat to their herd. The high threat rating participants indicated for both SIV and PRRS suggests that participants understood the negative impact of these diseases for their herd and their vulnerability should they be introduced, given this population's lack of innate or vaccinal immunity. 

Study participant feedback regarding the project’s influence on their knowledge and behavior was solicited through a series of final questions identifying implementation of major biosecurity recommendations and self-rating of knowledge gained. Only 30% of project participants report that they have developed a written a biosecurity plan for their farm. However, at the inhiation of this project only 1 participant (10%) responded that they had a biosecurity plan. While this improvement is small, this gain indicates some positive impact for this study group and suggest a future focus area for livestock service providers. Identifying opportunities for supporting this sector was one goal for this project, so this result is doubly impactful. 

Written biosecurity plan

In the final biosecurity survey we did repeat a question from the initial biosecurity survey in order to directly measure change in perceived knowledge by study participants. We assessed “How confident are you that your farm is well-protected from contagious disease?” 

Responses Pre Post
Not confident 0 0
Somewhat confident 9 0
Confident 1 3
Very confident 0 7

100% of responders indicated that they felt confident or very confident about their biosecurity practices' ability to protect their pigs from diseases entering their farms. This shift in confidence confirms that this project's partner farmers benefited from participating in this study. Further, when asked to rate their change in knowledge and understanding of  biosecurity practice on NNE swine farms, 90% of participants rated this experience as a learning opportunity: “Based on your participation in all aspects of this study, do you feel your knowledge of infectious disease prevention through biosecurity practices has:”

Remained the same 1
Increased 9
Become less clear 0
Other 0

Future partner farmer interest in remaining connected to swine health resources and communicating needs to the study team was assessed though a series of multiple choice and free choice survey questions. The project leaders and partner farmers had developed a level of trust and connection throughout the study period. The research team was diligent in protecting participants' identity and offered unbiased, respectful feedback. Partner farmers shared personal farm information and opened their facility to evaluation by government regulators.  To ascertain if the farmers valued this experience enough to continue working on the topic of farm biosecurity with this team, we assessed “Are you interested in continuing to address this topic of infectious disease control and biosecurity practice for pig farms? A tree map presentation of the selected responses is presented below, noting that no responders selected “No, not interested” or “Other."

Follow up interest

80% of responders indicated that they would engage in "Individual consultations with a livestock specialist to assist implementation of site-specific biosecurity plan."  Though only 30% of this study's partner farmers currently have a written biosecurity plan, 80% of participants report that they value this and wish to complete one with assistance.  This supports the conclusion that creating a farm biosecurity plan, even when using a preformulated template and receiving site-specific feedback, remains a significant burden or challenge.  This group of responders indicate that the support of a partner in the form of consult from a livestock specialist is needed to assist with completion of this task.  Many responders were also interested in Farmer Discussion Groups, facilitated by a swine specialist (7 selection) or by an industry association (6 selections).  Responders also favored al carte educational offerings by state organizations (7 selections).  There was also reported strong interest in regular consultations with private practice veterinarians (7 selections).

Objective 2: Infectious Disease Surveillance Study

Each partner farmer received the results of their swine herd's individual infectious disease investigation. The value of these disease reports to the individual farmer was to provide a point of reference for preventative health planning for their herd (vaccination and biosecurity practice), to use as an indication of their herd's current vulnerability to select infectious diseases and to serve as a basis for quantifying the level of success of their farm's current biosecurity practices. This amount of herd health surveillance data is rarely available to swine managers in NNE primarily due to the high cost of obtaining this data. Partner farmers appreciated the depth of this information about their herds and expressed interest in continuing to monitor select diseases from the overall surveillance plan that were identified as endemic in their herds. 

The collective results were summarized and shared with the project partner farmers, regional swine producers and service providers including Maine and New Hampshire large animal veterinarians and Cooperative Extension staff. This information was shared at multiple events: (1) Large Animal Veterinarian Continuing Education (virtual) hosted by DACF (March 2021), (2) Maine Swine Producer's Association Annual Meeting (May 2022) and (3) Swine Health Education Seminar (October 2022). The collective results are valuable to the regional swine industry and their service providers as evidence of what infectious diseases to expect among the local swine population. This knowledge will help to direct service providers in their efforts to support this industry, resulting in targeted disease prevention guidance and awareness of the industry's specific vulnerabilities and resources for combatting these challenges. 

Summarized results and analysis from the infectious disease surveillance phase of this project are below: 

Collective Swine Herd Serological Surveillance results document multiple regionally significant trends. 

Collective Herd Serological Surveillance Report








All herds tested positive for antibodies to circovirus, indicating this is a common agent in NNE swine herds. Of this sample group, 60% of herds testing antibody positive were due to natural exposure to this virus; 40% were vaccine induced or possibly both. Many herds were vaccinated against M.hyopneumonia, so antibodies for M. hyorhinis were measured instead. 70% of the sample group tested positive for exposure to this mycoplasma species, none of which was expected to be vaccine induced antibody.

Exposure to Lawsonia and Actinobaciillus pleuropneumonia was nearly universal, with few herds reporting recent outbreaks of disease, but several herds reporting subclinical levels of signs compatible with chronic herd level disease (diarrhea, stunting, sudden death).

In contrast to surveillance reports from commercial swine in the mid-west, Northern New England transitional swine were significantly less likely to demonstrate exposure to Swine Influenza Virus and PRRS. One herd in this study group testing PRRS antibody positive was a single antibody positive in an imported pig, with no additional positives in that group suggesting prior exposure with no onward transmission of virus. The second herd positive was a group of imported PRRS/SIV vaccinated gilts from a commercial producer in the Midwest, and this antibody detection was likely vaccine induced.

Only two herds in the study group tested positive for exposure to two different coronaviruses of swine: one that causes primarily intestinal illness (TGEV) and the other causing primarily mild respiratory disease (PRCV). One of these herds was assembled from swine originating in the Midwest. The other herd was a low biosecurity herd with frequent movements of swine into and out of the herd from various suppliers.

Collective Swine Herd Molecular Surveillance was less useful due to low detection levels of infectious agents in clinically normal animals. None of the animals included in this study group tested positive for brachyspira, the agent causing "swine dysentery" and only one animal was detected carrying mycoplasma hyopneumonia, the agent causing "enzootic pneumonia" of swine.   

Collective Herd Surveillance Report - PCR

Collective Swine Herd Internal Parasite Surveillance results indicate that the majority of herds in this study group are affected by some type(s) of internal parasitism. This is notable because the representative fecal sample collected from each herd was from a mature animal group, indicating a stable herd level infection rather than young animals colonized due to immature immunity. The predominant internal parasite recorded was various coccidia species from asymptomatic adult swine. This result supports the importance of pre-farrowing treatment of sows and gilts and environmental sanitation practices in the farrowing house and young pig environments. Most participants expressed an interest in receiving recommendations for swine deworming practice, which is necessary for swine health and productivity as well as human public health (Ascaris suum is a zoonotic strongyle). Importantly, most swine producers in this study are not able to handle individual animals easily, making oral administration of anthelminthic the only practical delivery route. Therefore, in this population we learn that maximizing management factors such as stocking density, pasture rotation, sanitation and strategic administration of appropriate injectable deworming agents, plays a critically important role in internal parasite control in the NNE swine industry.  

Adult Swine Internal Parasites

Internal Parasite Distribution

Research conclusions:

Our project successfully documented demographic information, farm management practices and changes in biosecurity knowledge in the Northern New England Swine industry through a series of online surveys. We also documented conformity of self reported biosecurity practice to that observed by the research team through use of a comprehensive on-site farm biosecurity evaluation. Lastly, we documented endemic infectious disease prevalence information for a representative group of the region's swine herd, information that is rarely sought and shared regionally.

Multiple educational products resulted from this project, including a 2 hour virtual Swine Biosecurity Training webinar, two swine biosecurity checklists and several custom NNE swine farm biosecurity signs. The research team was able to repurpose funding resources during the project to respond to the management trends identified through these research surveys. This resulted in two additional opportunities to expand biosecurity training and support to swine producers in Maine and New Hampshire, including those external to the study group. These education events included distribution of biosecurity and compost management supplies, which significantly impacted farmer biosecurity management behavior as determined by follow up survey of audience members. This impact was especially strong in the context of an education event which described how and why to use these supplies.  The fact of having a foot bath tub, visitor policy signage, correct compost thermometer and boot/shoe covers eliminated "supply" as a barrier to use, and farmers reported that they used the materials distributed as described in the seminar. As anticipated, supplies distributed to Agricultural Service providers were further distributed to farmers that had not attended the specific training event, and were used during their farm service visits.  

A final analysis of all study components is pending. This study combined farmer education, context building and material support to effect change in biosecurity management practices on NNW swine farms. Based on the success of these interventions we aim to determine if our hypothesis correctly characterizes this industry. 

Participation Summary
10 Farmers participating in research

Education & Outreach Activities and Participation Summary

3 Curricula, factsheets or educational tools
1 On-farm demonstrations
2 Webinars / talks / presentations
2 Other educational activities: Two educational events - day long with multiple seminars/presentations.

Participation Summary:

30 Farmers participated
7 Number of agricultural educator or service providers reached through education and outreach activities
Education/outreach description:

Webinar:  A 2 hour Swine Health and Biosecurity Webinar was delivered on January 20th 2021 to 14 partner farmers enrolled in the study. Their participation in this instructional presentation was intended to deliver introductory level biosecurity training, familiarize them with the concept of site specific biosecurity planning, and prepare participants for the on-site biosecurity evaluation phase of the project. Feedback solicited from the 10 partner farmers who completed the entire project suggests that the webinar material was perceived to be relevant and understandable. A PDF of the webinar content is available: JAN20_SARE Swine Health Webinar. A recording of the project's Northeast SARE Swine Health and Biosecurity Webinar is here.

The Animal Health Program in the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry offers seasonal 2-hour, RACE approved veterinary continuing education credits by virtual webinar. In March of 2012 Dr. Carolyn Hurwitz presented to this audience on the preliminary stages of this study, including initial results of industry demography, biosecurity management and opportunities for access to the final study report and conclusions. 

On-farm demonstration:  We 'piggy-backed' on a Maine Organic Farmer and Gardeners Association (MOFGA) workshop in Albion, Maine in August 2022 where the theme was animal handling.  We opened the training with a demonstration of relevant biosecurity practices to welcome the audience to the host farm.  The demonstration included a hands-on training for all participants to properly select and prepare a disinfectant and apply it to their farm boots before continuing into the livestock areas to attend their primary animal handling training. We had attendees sign in and indicate if they had been with other livestock in the last 24-72 hours. The attendees found this image useful. (13 farmers/interns, 1 ag service providers)

Dr. Hurwitz presenting at on-farm MOFGA workshop about proper biosecurity measures when entering a livestock operation
Dr. Hurwitz presenting at on-farm MOFGA workshop about proper biosecurity measures when entering a livestock operation, 2022

In-person educational events: As part of a Maine Pork Producers Association day-long educational event on May 12, 2022, we gave a summary of the survey and disease surveillance results.  We shared the new Checklists on quarantine and visitors as well as a custom farm visitor-policy sign with opportunity to designate a site biosecurity coordinator.  At the conclusion of the event, the research team shared select biosecurity supplies with attendees for use on their farms to promote biosecurity practice as discussed in the presentation. (13 farmers, 2 ag. service providers)

Drs. Walsh and Hurwitz, Maine state and assistant state veterinarians, discussing use of biosecurity supplies
Drs. Walsh and Hurwitz, Maine state and assistant state veterinarians, discussing use of biosecurity supplies, May 2022 Outreach

We also organized a day-long educational event on October 28, 2022 and presented a more comprehensive summary of the results of the project. The project summary was supported by additional subject presentations as requested by the study team, focusing on subject areas that would add education in areas of need as identified through the project surveys and on-farm observations. Mark King, specialist working in the Organic Waste Management Division of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection is part of the Maine Compost School Cadre known nationwide for compost trainings.  He presented on how to build a good compost pile to handle pig mortalities. Mark Hedrich, Nutrient Management Specialist with the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, was also in attendance to offer subject matter expertise to attendees. Pineland Farm Talk, October 28, 2022 Luis Aponte, NRCS District Conservationist for York and Cumberland Counties presented funded programs for farmers to build nutrient management facilities along with Laura Thiboutot, Director of USDA FSA office, who explained the application process.  Dr. Colt Knight presented a popular talk Alternative Feeds - Swine on basic nutrition and how many alternative types of feed impact the overall quality of pork.  To conclude this meeting, Brittany Hemond, president of the Maine Pork Producers Association explained the benefits of membership in this organization  and encouraged farmers to join and contribute.  Lastly, the researchers offered farmers access to biosecurity supplies such as Virkon, Bleach, hand sanitizer, boot covers, rubber over-boots, tubs for scrubbing footwear and disinfecting and boot brushes.  Attendees were also offered a 36 inch ReoTher compost thermometer to support their implementation of the techniques described during the carcass composting presentation. We collected emails and phone numbers of all participants and will send a poll measuring the use of the thermometers and biosecurity supplies. There were several  Agricultural Service Providers from Maine and New Hampshire in attendance and they were encouraged to also also take biosecurity and composting supplies to demonstrate proper use and thereby amplify the lessons of this session. Total attendance was 22 people and 2 research team members.  This included 15 farmers, 1 farmer/Ag Educator, and 6 Ag service providers. 

Brittany Hemond, President Maine Pork Producers encouraging membership
Brittany Hemond, President Maine Pork Producers encouraging membership
Dr. Colt Knight, UMaine Ext, presenting on Alternative Feeds like kitchen waste.
Dr. Colt Knight, UMaine Ext, presenting on Alternative Feeds like kitchen waste.
Presentation by NRCS about funding opportunites for composting facilities
Presentation by NRCS about funding opportunities for composting facilities, Laurie Thiboutot and Luis Aponte
Mark King presenting with compost material buckets behind
Mark King, Organic Materials Specialist with Dept. of Environmental Conservation, presenting with compost material buckets behind
Oct. 28, 2022 Swine Semianr Mark King presenter
Oct. 28, 2022 Swine Seminar with keynote presenter, Mark King, on building a good compost pile to handle carcass composting
Distribution of biosecurity supplies including Compost Thermometers
Distribution of biosecurity supplies including Compost Thermometers

Poster Presentation: A poster showing the behavior change measured from only the 10 farms that finished the study (removing the 4 farms that dropped out).  This poster especially highlighted the risk that farm visitors pose and it was created and presented at the International Workshop for Agritourism, Burlington, VT August 30-September 1, 2022.  In-person attendees numbered 350 from about 50 countries with about 150 on-line attendees.  The poster was uploaded for anyone to access. At the poster session, Carol Delaney connected with a graduate student, from the University of Vermont who was very interested in this work due to their recent polling of livestock producers across the country.  His name is Richmond Silvanus Baye and his topic area is Data Science and Economics of Plant and Livestock Disease.

Discussion of poster with UVM graduate student, Richmond Baye
Carol Delaney discussed project with Richmond Baye from UVM

Sharing: Maine Large Animal Veterinarians, regional State Animal Health Officials, regional Cooperative Extension Livestock Service Providers and all participants and attendees to this project's educational events will be notified of the link to the final report. 

Learning Outcomes

5 Farmers reported changes in knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness as a result of their participation
Key areas in which farmers reported changes in knowledge, attitude, skills and/or awareness:

In the preliminary survey, 70-80% of the farmers who fully participated in the study allowed visitors in their barns and in with their livestock.  After participating in the study, 50 % of the farmers identified that having visitors on their farms was their farms Biggiest Biosecurity Weakness. We believe this was a change in perception of the risk.  Also, at the beginning of the study, a large portion of farmers felt that "cost" was the biggest barrier to implementing biosecurity practices.  They then learned that using Visitor signage, having a protocol to assess visitor risk, and implementing a protocol to limit visitor contact with pigs was effective and under the category of biosecurity.  We know this because, armed with that knowledge and visitor signs, 30 to 40 % implemented or are planning to implement these practices.

Project Outcomes

4 Farmers changed or adopted a practice
1 New working collaboration
Project outcomes:

Participant Survey outcomes:

  • Participating farmers with written biosecurity plans went from 1 to 3 (out of 10 total).
  • 40 % have or plan to add visitor signage
  • 30% have or plan to use risk assessment tools to assess visitor risk
  • 30% have or plan to change to limit visitor access to pigs

Outreach events outcomes.

On May 13, 2022, we presented preliminary results of this study to an audience of about 13 swine farmers and one agricultural service provider.  This presentation was included as part of a day long educational event sponsored by the Maine Pork Producers Association, held in Augusta, Maine.  At the end of the day, we shared basic farm biosecurity supplies such as boot and shoe covers, bleach and Virkon, overshoes, plastic tubs and brushes and visitor policy signage featuring NNE pigs.  

In an October 28, 2022 workshop, a subset of this SARE funded project partner farmers attended and recruited other regional swine producers to the event. Several partner farmers in attendance recounted some new biosecurity steps implemented on their farm since participating in the project. One farmer described using the laminated Visitor Policy sign designed and provided by the study team (example available for download in Project Products section).  This farmer had previously described challenges restricting her swine management areas from an interested general public and unchaperoned farm visitors. She endorsed used of these new visitor policy signs as effective in mitigating this issue. Another partner farmer in attendance shared his experience as a participant in Maine's Open Farm Day at the end of July 2022. In preparation for this agritourism event, this farmer implemented a disinfectant foot bath and Site Biosecurity Manager for enforcement of its use. This anecdote is doubly impactful as it exemplifies how this partner farmer found benefit from both the project's education and provision of biosecurity supplies, and the event also served to spread forward the message of biosecurity education to that farm's visitors. The assigned Site Biosecurity Manager was the farmer's young son, who reportedly approached this role with dedication and enthusiasm. Following the October 28 educational event, we provided electronic copies of supporting documents such as fillable compost logs, instructions for use of the compost thermometers and contact information for the agricultural service providers present at this meeting.

Outreach event attendees received a survey by email at the end of December 2022 in which we collected 18/30 (both event attendances combined) representing a 60% response rate. This survey was intended to capture information about if and how attendees utilized the tools they were provided at these seminars. The full results of the survey are found here: Swine Biosecurity Survey post training May 2022.2   

Here is a summary of what we found:

The most popular items attendees brought home were:

    1. Compost thermometer
    2. Boot or shoe covers
    3. Plastic tubs with brushes
    4. Visitor signage

When asked how their taking home free biosecurity supplies affected their biosecurity management practices, almost 40% of the responders indicated that this improved their overall farm biosecurity management with 22% indicating this allowed them to add a new biosecurity protocol.

How farmer biosecurity management was affected  by receiving supplemental biosecurity supplies # Responses % Responses
Improved my biosecurity management 7 39%
Allowed me to continue the same biosecurity management 5 28%
Added a new biosecurity measure or protocol to my management 4 22%
Other 2 11%
Grand Total 18 100%

Participants that received biosecurity supplies form this project were asked to share how they used the biosecurity supplies. This was an open ended question and the following feedback was received: 

"I have distributed all the signage that I took from the event. This has gone to farmers directly and feed stores for further distribution. The signage was well received, and farmers immediately saw the benefit from hanging signs on the farm."

"We've used the bleach to disinfect the trailer after trips to the processor. We've used the hand soap for washing hands when working with the animals."

"The boot covers I use when entering the stalls of all my animals. The hand sanitizer is applied to my hands randomly when preforming my chores. The visitor signs are posted at the entrance of my property. The rubber boots I have not worn as of this posting."

"Sanitization of hands. Plastic boots covers for off sight workers/visitors. Hung signs outside of barn, tested compost thermometer..."

"We don't allow visitors on the farm so we end up using this material to scrub between barns and have used with the few people allowed on the farm. We plan to trial composting this coming year so the thermometer should come in handy with the learning curve."

"Plastic tub for scrubbing in and out, excited to use the thermometer."

"I have put up signs and they have effectively kept unwanted visitors out or at least had visitors I was not expecting call me and ask for permission to access the barns. I have boot covers now for visitors on the farm. I also set up my boot tubs and have started to wash my boots consistently. I have played with the compost thermometer some and am keeping an eye on the temp of our manure pit!"

"Boot washing so far, plan to use compost thermometer."

"Better knowledge is helping us keep our animals safe. Compost thermometer is giving us much better info of how our composting is working or not working."

When asked about which biosecurity supplies they had not yet used, 85% of respondents chose the response "Waiting for the appropriate time and intend to use them." Responders provided the following additional detail: 

'Useful. Boot covers are great for on site visitors. Quick and efficient! Quick sanitization as well. In house biosecurity could increase with disinfect however we have prioritized sets of boots just for our farm. Our compost could improve next year as well with multiple bays."

"Yes it is useful for farms already concerned with environmental diseases we all face now with wild animals and other diseases spreading so much faster these days. I do believe we all need to continue to educate the public as to why biosecurity is so important and why the public can be just as devastating to farmers even if they just stop by cause they think the animal is so cute just have to pet it. Educate the public is always going to be an agenda for every farmer every day."

"I was very grateful for the supplies and it has helped my operation! Thank you for all your time and effort in this project!!"

"The distribution of the items is very helpful. It sort of puts the use of the biosecurity items right, front and center. Many know these items should be utilized however don't go the extra step to acquire the items. So this helps them get started and then once in the habit of using them often people will then continue using them and purchase them after they run out."

Based on this feedback it appears that the biosecurity supply distribution was a successful and impactful component of this project and the presentation events. 

One impact from this study which was not anticipated was that the observed need for written swine farm biosecurity plans sparked an 'aha!' moment.  Carol Delaney has now adopted this topic as a focus area for her programing with DACF, assisting any livestock farmer in Maine to develop and write down their farm biosecurity plans.  She has been able to offer this service directly to 2 other farmers who were enthusiastic about the aide and, more recently, at the 2023 Maine Agricultural Trades Show, January 10-12, she met with 3 farm couples at the "Listening Post" appointments to start them off in the process.  The binder that was developed for the last outreach event in October 2022 was used as a hand out.  It contains some materials (compost mortality presentation, 2 checklists for quarantine and visitors, template for writing a biosecurity plan) as a base for farmers to continue augmenting with their own materials for their customized farm biosecurity plan.  Developing and writing a livestock biosecurity plan is a process and each farmer decides where they most need to focus and what they can actually accomplish each year.

Assessment of Project Approach and Areas of Further Study:

We were content with the results of the study as it gave a 'never before' snapshot of what diseases were present on swine farms in Norther New England. A larger study sample size would have been preferred, however we encountered some logistical challenges to recruiting this base, that may be improved now that there is greater partnership between DACF and this livestock sector. 

Due to the need to maintain confidentiality of study participants, it was challenge for the study team or organize this group of farmers for the purpose of continuing education and networking. One goal of the study was to provide information to Agricultural Service providers in the region, and ideally UMaine Extension and UNH Extension will continue with this contact list and offer more programming that captures the interest of this group. The involvement of the Maine Pork Producers Association was a highlight of this project's outreach, and was intended to facilitate enduing engagement with this industry group and recruitment of new commercial swine producers in the region.

Information Products

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.