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The New Building Effect - Renewing Older Facilities


Pigs perform well in new facilities.  A large portion of the performance enhancement associated with "new production technologies" such as "Multi-Site" and "Wean-to-Finish" production are actually the result of "new building effects" that are interposed on top of the clear benefits of phase segregation (Multi-Site) and decreased moving and mixing (Wean-to-Finish).
What accounts for the "New Building Effect"? 
Certainly some of the New Building Effect is due to the positive attitude of the workers who feel good about the new facility and are happy to do their very best.   Also, old buildings often fall into disrepair due to lack of maintenance. Important features of ventilation and waste disposal may not function optimally in old facilities, which can materially reduce animal performance.
But most producers and consultants will state flatly that the main difference between old buildings and new buildings is the "build-up" of disease that creates the cumulative loss of performance in old facilities.  This brings up several questions:
1.  Where is the buildup of disease?
2.  What can be done about it?
3.  Can old facilities be made to perform as well as new facilities?
Certainly older facilities with proper design features and good maintenance can often perform even better than new facilities, but usually older facilities do not perform well because of poor ventilation and poor temperature control, and because of "disease buildup".
When facilities are new, they have a bright shiny clean appearance, but with use, a dull dark grey-brown-green tinge dominates the appearance of the walls, floors, and equipment.
This dull dark grey-brown-green tinge is due to the presence of bacterial biofilms.  Biofilms are a paint-like excretion that adhere the bacteria to surfaces and provides the bacteria with waterproof protection against the environment and disinfectants.  Biofilms are a complex mixture of polysaccharide, protein, fat, and metallic ions. Biofilms are found on the floors, walls, and equipment of animal buildings, food-service establishments, in water pipes, on teeth, and in clogged arteries.   Biofilms contain multiple species of bacteria that communicate by chemical signals in the biofilm that are called "quorum sensing".  The different bacteria in a biofilm work together to establish and maintain the biofilm.  Biofilm bacteria can be 1000 times more resistant to antibiotics than their free-living "planktonic" forms, and represent a serious challenge to the maintenance of animal and human health.
Biofilms contain not only bacteria but also extremely toxic substances produced by bacteria such as exotoxins and endotoxins.  Endotoxins are components of the cell wall of gram-negative bacteria.  Endotoxins of gram-negative bacteria derive their remarkable toxicity from compounds called lipopolysaccharides (LPS).  The LPS of different bacteria share much in common with each other and contain a common unit called Lipid-A which accounts for their poisonous effects on animals.  Tiny (nanogram) doses cause cell damage and abnormal hyperstimulation of the immune system, while larger doses cause sickness behaviour, appetite suppression, fever, diarrhea, vomiting and acute death.
New facilities don't have biofilm problems, but older facilities do.  Protected by their water-repellent paint-like coating, bacteria, viruses, and coccidia lurk deep within biofilms from which they and their toxins can be released to do harm to animals and people in the biofilm contaminated animal facility, spreading disease from batch to batch of animals despite all-in/all-out management procedures.  Cleaning with plain water cannot remove biofilms and even hot water and hot soap-and-water do not remove biofilms.  
The good news is that there is a way to remove biofilms.  Biofilms can be destroyed by strong alkaline cleaners such as Biosolve (全清).  The detergent base in Biosolve (全清) allows thorough wetting of the surface of the oily biofilm while the alkaline component (OH-) disintegrates the biofilm AND the LPS/Lipid-A fraction.   Cleaning should include the floors, the walls, the ceilings and all other objects and surfaces that pigs can contact such as feeders, and waterers.  Hot water speeds the process.  Feeders should be inverted and thoroughly cleaned. Nipple waterers should be removed and the lines flushed clean.  Acidic cleaners that can remove iron and calcium scale help to maintain water quality.  The alkaline cleaner should be applied before and after the general cleaning and allowed to stand for 20 minutes.  Once the surfaces have been cleaned and all biofilms removed, a good disinfectant such as Virkon-S can be used to destroy any living forms of bacteria or viruses remaining.
Good cleaning and sanitation practices along with proper facility maintenance and upgrading of ventilation and temperature control can help us get "New Building Effect" results in older facilities.