Characterization and Description of Alternative Pig Farms in Minnesota

Project Overview

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2022: $14,934.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2023
Grant Recipient: University of Minnesota
Region: North Central
State: Minnesota
Faculty Advisor:
Dr. Cesar Corzo, DVM, MSc, PhD
University of Minnesota

Information Products


  • Animals: swine


  • Animal Production: animal protection and health

    Proposal abstract:

    This project, “Describing and Characterizing Alternative Pig Farms (APFs),” is being proposed to better describe APFs since APFs have yet to be well described in the United States (US). APFs include, but are not limited to, those labeled as niche, pasture-raised, US Department of Agriculture organic-certified, heritage/heirloom, purebred, regenerative (i.e., those farms that focus on increasing biodiversity, improving soil quality, restoring watersheds and enhancing the ecosystem of the farm) and humane-certified. APFs are distinct from US conventional swine production systems in their management, biosecurity, and marketing practices. The project will include the information gathering process, then targeted pathogen surveillance, and finally with evaluations of pathogen risk and prevention.  A survey will be distributed to APF farmers to gain insight regarding their management style, farming practices, biosecurity protocols, marketing avenues, and health outcomes. From the participants of the survey, we will then estimate pathogen prevalence by collecting biological specimens from pigs on 18 APFs in Minnesota for five viruses that are considered endemic in conventional pork production systems but have an unknown status in APFs, namely Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome (PRRSv), Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea (PEDv), Porcine Deltacoronavirus (PDCoV), Transmissible Gastroenteritis (TGEv), and Pseudorabies (PRV). Finally, a risk assessment will estimate risk and evaluate risky behaviors for transmission of these pathogens in APFs. The expected project outcomes that will help alternative pig farmers improve the health of their pigs include estimating disease prevalence for the five stated pathogens and current risk of these pathogens, recommendations regarding biosecurity practices to mitigate these risks, increased access to veterinary care, and increased consideration of APFs in the development of regulatory policies from federal and state regulatory agencies. Additional outcome audiences include not only practicing veterinarians who, upon project completion, may have increased awareness and knowledge of APFs but also the federal/state regulatory agencies, who may then improve their collaborations with APFs regarding disease outbreak preparedness and response plans. Since our primary goal is to inform, educate, and engage APFs, we will disseminate the information gathered online via educational websites and social media. Therefore, to evaluate the project’s success, we will measure and monitor discussions and circulation of information from and between organizations that serve APFs. By improving pig health, economic losses on APFs can be decreased, the natural resources consumed as feedstuffs would not be wasted, and ultimately, farmers can continue to provide safe, nutritious, and affordable pork for consumers.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    The learning and action outcomes from my project activities are for these three audiences:

    1. APF Farmers: Expected outcomes include the awareness and knowledge of disease prevalence in
      APFs, the skills to mitigate these diseases through implementation of biosecurity practices, and a change
      in attitude; for example, even if they aren’t seeing active disease in their own pigs, it doesn’t mean
      biosecurity isn’t important for prevention.
    2. Veterinarians: Expected outcomes include the knowledge and awareness of disease prevalence in
      APFs, the skills to treat and prevent disease in APFs, and a change in attitude; for example, even though
      APFs’ farming practices differ from conventional farms, APFs can still continue to protect their herds
      from disease despite having access to the outdoors.
    3. State and Federal Regulatory Agencies: Expected outcomes include the knowledge and awareness of disease prevalence in APFs, their current biosecurity practices, and the feasibility of incorporating new or different biosecurity practices in APFs. A change in attitude is also expected; for example, despite having access to the outdoors, APFs are still able to implement disease mitigation practices.
    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.