Pig shows, like those at county or state fairs are fun, exciting times for young people to show off the care and work they have put into their animal project. Getting together with fellow exhibitors—and their pigs—from all over the area makes it all that much more enjoyable.
One thing to consider about these gatherings of pigs and people is that not all pigs are the same! Of course, that statement is pretty obvious looking across a group of pigs at a show. After all, there would be no need for a judge if every pig had the same build, muscling and conformation.
There’s another way that pigs are different from each other—a way that can’t be seen from the outside. All pigs are different in the germs they carry in their respiratory tract and their digestive tract and in their resistance to those germs that might cause disease. Simply put, what one pig’s immune system may consider “normal” (like a certain strain of influenza, for example) may be a germ that causes another pig to get quite sick.
When you have pigs together on your own farm, there’s usually a kind of evening out that takes place. Pigs in contact with each other and with their environment pass germs back and forth and all end up with pretty much the same immunity—and the same germs. But pigs from a different farm will have a different set of germs and immunity. There’s a chance that contact between your pigs and outside pigs might result in your pig catching a new germ that could make him sick. And worse yet, it could travel with him back home to make the rest of your pigs sick!
That’s where biosecurity comes in. Biosecurity is simply what steps you take to make sure new diseases don’t enter your farm. One of the most important biosecurity steps you can take this show season is to “isolate” your pigs from the rest of your animals once you get back home from the show. An isolation period of at least a couple weeks will let the returning pig get over any “bug” he might have picked up at the show, so he doesn’t pass it to the rest of your pigs.
The National Pork Board and American Association of Swine Veterinarians have a great brochure that gets into more detail about biosecurity and show pigs.