Background: Biosecurity measures such as cleaning, disinfection and a vacancy period between production cycles on pig farms are essential to prevent disease outbreaks. No studies have tested the effect of a longer vacancy period on bacterial load in nursery units.
Methods: The present study evaluated the effect of a 10-day vacancy period in pig nursery units on total aerobic flora, Enterococcus spp., Escherichia coli, faecal coliforms and methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). Three vacancy periods of 10 days were monitored, each time applied in 3 units. The microbiological load was measured before disinfection and at 1, 4, 7 and 10 days after disinfection.
Results: No significant decrease or increase in E. coli, faecal coliforms, MRSA and Enterococcus spp. was noticed. Total aerobic flora counts were the lowest on day 4 after disinfection (i.e. 4.07 log CFU/625 cm2) (P < 0.05), but the difference with other sampling moments was limited (i.e. 0.6 log CFU/625 cm2) and therefore negligible. Furthermore, this observation on day 4 was not confirmed for the other microbiological parameters. After disinfection, drinking nipples were still mostly contaminated with total aerobic flora (i.e. 5.32 log CFU/625 cm2) and Enterococcus spp. (i.e. 95 % of the samples were positive) (P < 0.01); the feeding troughs were the cleanest location (total aerobic flora: 3.53 log CFU/625 cm2 and Enterococcus spp.: 50 % positive samples) (P < 0.01).
Conclusions: This study indicates that prolonging the vacancy period in nursery units to 10 days after disinfection with no extra biosecurity measures has no impact on the environmental load of total aerobic flora, E. coli, faecal coliforms, MRSA and Enterococcus spp..
Keywords: Bacterial load; Between batch vacancy; Cleaning and disinfection; Nursery pigs.