Next week I am participating in a webinar on biosecurity in pastured swine. I was asked by the hosts, PASA and PSU Extension to be the example farm to look at potential biosecurity issues. If you're not familiar, biosecurity is typically thought of as a set of procedures and practices put into place in physical spaces to prevent the spread of disease - kinda like masks for COVID!
I went into the meeting very skeptical, as the confinement industry treats every disease like a pandemic. Which, is true, if your animals don't have any immune system. The Extension Swine Specialist was very knowledgeable on pig health and very happy to see the conditions of our pigs. It was definitely hard for me to get past the regular use of the word "cookie co=utter" to describe protocols the confinement industry wants to see.
I voiced my opposition to this and mentioned that most pastured farms, including ours, are based on holistic management practices that tend to view the farm as whole - one big organism, of which the soil is the digestive system. If I see one sick pig, I don't isolate it and treat it, I assume that if we boost everyone's immune system, they'll all get a bit healthier. When we had sows, I've treated infected hooves with antibiotics as needed, but literally twice ever.
It occurred to me that cookie cutter anything is the current problem with our society. Anything that discourages communication with your peers and community and favors "cookie cutter protocols from the experts" loses any ability to listen and respond to the uniqueness of every farm, community, person, or animal. As I thought more about this and voiced this concern, our swine specialist agreed that communication was key, but cookie cutter solutions are what these confinement guys need.
I did my best and suggested Korean Natural Farming as a very viable "cookie cutter" solution for confinement, and this seemed to help a bit, but who knows. Ultimately, the one-solution-fits-all is not what we need anywhere. We need critical analysis, open forums and data to make sound decisions. Hopefully this is where we go from here!
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