Deep cleaning for essential for pig growth

Adopting a thorough and comprehensive cleaning and disinfection routine will reduce days to slaughter and could save about £4.50 a pig in reduced feed costs.

Den Leonard, partner with Cheshire vets Lambert, Leonard and May, says many pig producers would benefit from a stricter cleaning and disinfection routine.

“While washing of pens and housing is a routine feature of pig production systems, it is debatable how effective many cleaning routines are in tackling problems that exist. The evidence points to a significant financial advantage from taking the time to clean and disinfect properly,” says Mr Leonard.


Research carried out in Canada measured the effectiveness of different cleaning routines and, in particular, compared washing with and without detergent and with and without disinfectant.

“The objective of cleaning pig housing is to remove bacteria, viruses and other parasites left behind by the previous batch of pigs. Most diseases transmitted by micro-organisms are dose dependent, meaning the more pathogens present the more animals will become sick and the sicker they will be. So the aim of cleaning is simple – to kill as many pathogens as possible.

“To remove organisms you must first remove organic soiling, as it provides a refuge for pathogens and also you cannot disinfect dirt. The commonest approaches to cleaning are high-pressure systems, sometime using hot water or steam cleaning. The problem is these systems are often used without detergents, which are more effective at removing grease and breaking down organic matter.

“Once soiling is removed the unit can be disinfected. But, again, many farmers do not thoroughly disinfect. It has been shown that while washing reduces bacterial counts by about 60%, washing and disinfecting increases effectiveness of the kill to 99%.”


In the Canadian research, buildings were cleaned using a variety of measures and pigs were then raised from 25-110kg, and days to slaughter compared with basic treatment of a wash without detergent or disinfectant. While washing with water followed by disinfectant reduced days to slaughter by 2.5 days, use of detergent and disinfectant resulted in a 5.26 reduction in days to slaughter.

“At today’s feed prices this saving in days to slaughter is worth about £4.50 a pig. In addition, thorough cleaning means animals should finish more evenly reducing the problems of handling inconsistent batches. For example, deep cleaning will help in control of Lawsonia intracellularis, the causal agent of ileitis.

“If animals are generally healthier there should also be the opportunity to save on antibiotics with associated cost and welfare benefits.”

Mr Leonard believes in many cases the problem is not a willingness to clean buildings properly, but rather a shortage of time. He accepts it is more time-consuming to clean with a detergent and then disinfect and many producers will not have the available labour.

The Really Clean Team

One option now available is to use a specialist firm to deep-clean buildings. The Really Clean Team is the first contract cleaning business offering a dedicated service for livestock buildings. Based on technology developed for food processing plants and using a range of specially developed gel detergents and DEFRA-approved disinfectants, the company claims to be able to clean units quickly and effectively.

Efficient cleaning begins with the application of detergent for a sufficient length of time, says company director Phil Eades. “By applying thixotrophic gels that stick to walls and floors at a medium pressure, we can cover all surfaces with a detergent which will remain in contact with the surface for more than half an hour, giving it plenty of time to break down soiling and expose bacteria for the follow-up disinfectant,” says company director Mr Eades.


After an adequate contact time gel is rinsed away before disinfectant is added. Rinsing is also carried out at medium to low pressure to prevent aerosols, atomised water spray, which is a common problem with high pressure washers and simply moves dirt and bacteria from one area to another.

“By using a range of cleaning products we can select the most appropriate combination for a farm, ensuring a thorough clean and help producers improve performance by reducing the effect of bacterial contamination of housing,” says Mr Eades.

“With margins being squeezed, pig producers could make a significant difference if they adopted stricter cleaning and disinfection protocols,” concludes Mr Leonard.

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