As the PRRS’ year is coming to an end, Pipestone’s Dr. Joel Nerem is crossing his fingers. “We’ve experienced what I consider to be a very successful year in minimizing PRRS outbreaks.” With everyone’s attention drawn to the latest PEDv epidemic, PRRS has been out of the spotlight. Regardless, PRRS can be a catastrophe for a sow barn, averaging a $500,000 loss, and even more now with isoweans selling at $90. This is the reason why more and more barns are deciding to filter. The project can average $200 per sow, but if the filters can prevent just one PRRS outbreak, they have already more than paid for themselves.
When Pipestone decided to filter, they knew they couldn’t completely eliminate PRRS in the barns, but they believed they could drastically decrease outbreaks, making it a wise investment. Pipestone Management started filtering sow barns in 2008. In fact, they had the first large scale sow barn to be filtered in the United States. Today, Pipestone has twenty-eight filtered barns and counting.
Typically, barns that choose to filter are the ones that have had frequent PRRS infections in the past. Before filtering, 60-75% of these barns would’ve had at least one PRRS break in any given PRRS season. Looking at the past four years after filtering, an average of only 33% of these barns broke, with this last year having a staggering drop to a mere 12.5%.
Dr. Nerem explains that although filters are a large factor in the PRRS infection frequency dropping, it is not the only factor. In the past few years, Pipestone has gained considerable knowledge on best practices when it comes to filter biosecurity. Here are some procedures Pipestone has implemented to improve on farm bio-security:
- Every filtered barn now has a designated Filter Compliance Technician to ensure all biosecurity protocols are implemented.
- With fans being a potential source of back drafting, Pipestone designed chutes that provide an air tight seal when the fans are not running, preventing backdrafting of unfiltered air.
- Improved airtight seal of barn attic through additional insulation.
- Started using 3M filters. In a third party lab, the 3M filter has out-performed all available filter brands in side by side testing.
- Sealed pit pump outs during manure pumping, and eliminated pump and agitators being inserted into the pit.
- Requested that neighboring finish sights implement PRRS vaccination to reduce the shedding of PRRS virus near sow farms.
It is with these interventions that Pipestone has been able to cut down on PRRS infections. “Taking a group of barns that used to break once if not more per year, to only 12.5% of the barns breaking this past year is a huge success,” stated Dr. Nerem. Pipestone is constantly researching how to improve filter performance and biosecurity, and it seems that their persistence and efforts have made valuable improvements.