Episode 27

27: Global Swine Health Perspectives with Dr. Pablo Moreno


In this episode, we visit with Dr. Pablo Moreno and discuss his work with swine producers in Mexico, Russia, China, and the USA. We discuss the importance of training in the prevention of swine diseases and the need for continuance and new ways of communication in the swine industry.


28: Summer 2021 Highlights

Hello there.  This is Dr. Casey Bradley and you’re listening to The Real P3 podcast, a podcast dedicated to the real pork producers around the world. I hope you enjoy.


So, in this episode, we have a treat for you. We’re going to be talking to Dr. Pablo Moreno. He’s an independent consultant that works in China, Russia, Mexico, and the USA. So, he’s gonna talk about the experiences in the different countries, the pros and cons, a little bit about what they do right, and how he uses his approach to train different companies on their biosecurity and health management tools. So, stay tuned.



Casey: Hello, Dr. Moreno. How are you doing today?

Dr. Moreno: Very good. Thank you very much.

C: Good. Would you mind introducing ourselves and telling the audience a little bit about your background?

Dr: Yes, well, I’m a veterinarian. I graduated in De La Salle University in Leon, Mexico. A long time ago, I graduated probably 1985. And then after that, when I graduated… I worked a little bit in Mexico. We have a farm over there. I visited different producers in Mexico, and then I decided to go to United States. Then I went to United States to work and stayed there the same time. In the meantime, I get my permit, and fortunately, I find out that I can be a citizen, because my mother was born in the United States. So, I get my citizenship and I start to work in a farm in Lampasas, TX. In that time was kind of a big farm; in ‘85 with 800 sows, Mr. Lankford. Then from there, I meet Dr. Joe Connor and [02:00] he invited me to work in his clinic for year and a half. Then after that year and a half, I joined PIC and I lived in Franklin, KY and I worked with Dr. Hank Harris in the Health Assurance Program. From there, they acquired 100% PIC Mexico, so they sent me as a Health Veterinarian to manage the production also in Mexico. I worked for them for until ‘94, when I decided to come back to United States and try to enter to study something or get some courses, so I joined the University of Minnesota in the Health MasterTrack program for two years. At the same time, I worked in for [Lithke?] Genetics. After these two years, I went back to Mexico and I opened a multiplier for this company, and I stayed there and opened a multiplier for this company; it was a very good business. And also I did some consulting in Mexico and Central America for quite some time. Then I came back again to the United States, and I work for Carthage Veterinary Service again with Dr. Joe Connor in 2004. So, I worked for him as a production veterinarian 2 years and then Smithfield invited me to work in the Southwest operation and be the head veterinarian over there, so I worked for 4 years until 2010, and I stayed there because they started to sell some; they sold some spot to Prestage Farm. And I decided to join Neogen Company, so I was the service veterinarian, so I visited the clients from [04:00] Neogen from Canada to South America and Asia. That was until 3 years, 2013. Then I joined, I decided to go independent, so I started to visit farms in Russia. I joined Mediator company for 1 year and a half, and then I decided to be independent and then I started to visit big producers in Russia. Form there I also started to get some clients in China. Since the Covid I couldn’t travel either to Russia or China, I decided to start to get back business in Mexico, since I have my license in Mexico., so I just get started. I joined one of the biggest producers in Mexico, so this would be my… next month will be my 3rd visit. So that is my long story.

C: So, you’ve been all over the world because of pigs. So, this is awesome.

Dr: Yes, actually. You know since I was… my parents had a farm, so I’ve been working since 10 years old in pigs. So, I love pigs.

C: So, we have something in common then. Grew up on a pig farm; awesome. Born and raised. So, curious. With the struggles of Covid and stuff – how have you had to transition working with producers, and what are some of the problems the different producers around the world have faced because of Covid or other reasons going on right now today?

Dr: Yes. Well, with the Russia, most of the time the service I provide to my clients is, you know, in production and health. [06:00] Most of the time they send me all the information, the production data and the diagnostics and so on. So, in this case, the only thing… they keep sending me the information, so we have meetings by Zoom or another company, you know, every month. We try to follow up, but as you know, it’s very hard. It’s the only contact I have right now with my clients over there. In China, they decided to stop until they open the border, we’re going to renew the service over there and the contract. But in the Russian, we’re still working online.

C: So, with your new client in Mexico and working online with your customers in Russia, what are some of the challenges they’re facing or problems they’ve been working through from a production or health standpoint?

Dr: You know, in Russia we have several years and we try to maintain the health. Especially in Russia with the African Swine Fever, in China also, we work very hard in biosecurity how to prevent outbreaks over there. In Mexico, I just started with this big company. So, I start to visit and the first step that I do with my clients is I go to the farm, knowing the systems, try to identify what would be the lowest hanging fruit, so we can start from there. And then, most of the time, my style is go to the farms, visit the farm, give advice in production and health, and I like to work very much with the people on the farm. So, during my visit, I have a lot of interaction with actual people. Of course, with me, most of the time go the production manager and the veterinarians and we walk the farms. But I [08:00] like to do a lot of interaction with the farms, which basically they tell you the truth what’s going on in the farms. And then from there we….

C: I love that, so… it’s so funny – I remember back to some early job interviews and stuff, talking through situations and everybody said “Well, why wouldn’t you ask ‘em what they’ve already done?” And usually, I’ve found that what the managers have said that is getting done and what really gets done is not the truth. Do you see that as a challenge as well in a lot of these systems?

Dr: Yes, well, you know in all the countries I’ve visited, the first thing I try to do is try to understand the idiosyncrasies or what is the behind the culture in each country. So, you have to adapt yourself and try to find out the best way to communicate with them. For example, things are different between Russia and China and Mexico with the people. But you get these feelings when you go over there, and then you find the best way. But one thing I’ve been finding in all these companies, because most of the companies I visit there are full integrated companies, so as you know there’s a lot of levels of management. For example, in China, there is very highly respect to the superior, so if the superior does not have the idea how is going to be the change and he passes the order, even if he’s wrong and the people in the farm, he knows that the superior is wrong, they follow up. So when you go to the visit and you try to solve those kind of problems, the reality is that in these big companies, most of the time in the hierarchy there is good people, they work in [10:00] administration, very good people in business, they know the swine business, but not in depth, so where you put a program of health or production, sometimes they don’t catch very good. So, part of my job also is with training these guys. Try to explain why we are doing these changes, why it’s happening, try to explain with details, so they understand, and we are on the same page everywhere.

So, this is the thing that we’re finding in all the companies. So, to make the program work for me is that everybody has to be on the same page. Everybody has to do his job, and the program that we put together, everybody has to be understanding and keep going in the same direction. So, I have a very good experience and we get a good advance when one week we fix these kinds of problems. So, with training of the people on the farm, and also training the upper management, and the ones they don’t have a good understanding in production and health, so we explain in different ways because you know you have to talk with different terms and different levels of the farm. So that has been a challenge, but it has been a very good experience and we have a good understanding. The same in Russia and in Mexico is no different, you know. All the time you have different levels, so you have to be sure as a consultant that your program is understood from the top to the bottom and then is when you start to see the success.

C: So, in all your years of experience, what are some of the low hanging fruits that producers can focus on to [12:00] get a better health status, better program, better profitability.

Dr: I think, of course, you know, when you have good diagnostics, a good production system. You know, in every system there is a difference because the setup of the different companies. For example, in China, most of the farms that I visit are sow farms. Most of the time they are 6,000 or 5,500 sows in a big area or land, there is the wean-to-finish farms. In Russia, most of the farms that I visit, they are changing right now, but they have the same farms like 5,000 farms, and then they have two sites, which every site has nursery and finishers. So, in this case, most of these farms are all-in all-out by room but not by site, so can send me almost continuous flow. Then in Mexico, this big producer they have the same like United States.  Big farms, but then wean-to-finish on different sites. So, most of the sites they are all-in all-out. So that is a difference. So, the challenge is to understand the system, the management, the number of people that they handle and try to make the basics of production, because one other thing – if you want to be successful, you have to go back to the basics. My philosophy is try to produce more with less, or you don’t have enough facilities or you have to adjust the facilities is to produce more with the same. [14:00] Or the same with less. That mean?

C: Yeah, that more weight, less pigs.

Dr: Same pigs with less sows, or you have a facility to produce more spaces then you can produce more with less sows, or more pigs with less. The other is the same pigs with less sows. So that is my… when you start to look at the basics and everybody do the same, discipline, try to put SOPs, the vaccination programs, diagnostics and track the problems on time, because this is very important. In big companies, sometimes you don’t have enough veterinarians in the company, so they struggle to go to all of the farms. They try to do their best, train the people and get the feedback from the production assistants, or managers, and we know sometimes it’s not the same. So, that is the key part. So we have to get systems, producing some kind of alarm system so the people on the farm, they advise to the veterinarians and come with the feedback back and forth so they can attack the problems on time, because this is one of the things we find all over. When sometimes the problems start to get in too long because we don’t have enough people to get in on time, so this is the key part. The other part is that right now that everywhere we try to use less antibiotics, so we have to keep healthy pigs. In these big companies, at least the ones I visit, most of the time the veterinarians they have a standard treatment, but you have to – somehow – you have to go and make a [16:00] visit to be sure that they are in compliance. Because sometimes the people have medicine in the farms, – at least in the other countries, the United States is getting better in controlling all these treatments, but in another countries sometimes the people they try to medicate the pigs with no veterinary advice, so they use too many antibiotics and not the right antibiotics. So that is a key part. We have to make a system to stop that happening. In Russia/China we changed so much. In Mexico we start to do the same. So, we are getting better results. Trying to track the treatments and try to at least using the technology of today, we have these smart phones so we can communicate. They have a smart phone in each farm, so that, with WhatsApp and all that, WeChat and those kind of things, so it’s easy to communicate with the veterinarians so we can track with the videos and those kind of things, we start to use in the client, so we have a better results.

C: So how many hours of the day are you takin’ phone calls if you’re on WeChat, WhatsApp, Video Chat? I mean how many hours a day are you working with your different clients?

Dr: My service is most of the time we make contract and I say I will visit every quarter. For example, when I travel to Russia and China, I spend one month over there in each country every time I visit. In between visits, they send me all the information. We have video calls every 15 days, so putting it simple, if we are working in a control program of health or production program, then I go to the visit, we make the report, we [18:00] see who is responsible to do the changes, and then every 15 days we have a call to see the advance, how is going the program. So that is the advantage. So, I am 24 hours working. Especially in China, we have 12-13 hours difference; in Russia 8 hours. In Mexico is only 1 hour, so it’s not a problem.

C: Well, I have the same challenge when I’m working between China, Europe, and the US, is I don’t know what time zone I’m in half the time. Virtually lately, yeah, since we can’t travel, but… I’m gonna put you on the spot. So, China, Russia, US, Mexico, out of all those countries, give me what they do right? Like the best. What are they best at in swine production in each of those countries?

Dr: Well, you know, to be honest, China is doing very good technologically. They’re investing, so they’re doing top of the line farms very well. All the equipped farms. Even the farm I visited there, filtrated, even if they don’t have big farms close, so they are filtrated. Russia – they are growing. Most of the companies they have doubled the production. So, the new farms, they are putting more technology. In Mexico also the same, at least the clients I visit, you know, these they are try to do the things right. So, they are open to trying to do the things. The challenge, mostly in these countries, is the diagnostic. It’s not the same like the United States. In the United States, you have a lot of the universities that you can send samples and come back these results in the next day. In Mexico and China and Russia it’s not the same. So, in China and Russia – in Russia especially – [20:00] the companies try to build his own lab, so we can have PCR the same day. So, this is the thing that they have to invest in in Russia. In China, they haven’t started yet, but they have some labs far away, but they have to do by regions. In Mexico, we have some diagnostics, some companies that they can do this for you, and some universities, but they take maybe one week to get back the results. So, this company sometimes is using the Iowa State or Minnesota to send some results. So that is the challenge. In Mexico and those countries, you have to use a lot of videos, open pigs; the people in the farms they open pigs, they take pictures, so you have an idea to start an action right away. Then you send the results, and you get back maybe one week, then you can correct your treatment or your action. So that is the challenge. The thing everybody, you know, I don’t have any problem to say that these guys try to do his best They have a lot of challenge, for example in Mexico, the farm that I visit, there is a lot of pork production in the area. The same like in Iowa/Minnesota, you have to be good neighbors, so you have to work with your neighbors to get better. In Russia, the same, the area that I visit is in Belgorod region in Tambov, so there is a lot of big companies there. So again, the challenge is to work with your neighbors, which in Russia is not very easy. In China, the farms there not – at least the ones I visit – they are in isolate areas. The challenge is that they are new people over there. So, there is a lot of training to help the people [22:00] and do the better things.

C: So, the US’s #1 problem lately – I mean, we have disease issues, but we also have labor shortage. Do you find labor shortage or as you said, maybe untrained labor in these countries – do they face the same challenges we do here in the US?

Dr: Yes, even if, you know in China, Russia, and Mexico, if you take care – if you count the number of animals per person, we have a little bit more in those countries, like in United States. In China, the projects that I visit, you know, there is a project or a site, say before they have the farm and the wean-to-finish, but in China, all the people that work the farm, they have a live-in area. Sometimes they have – in some areas – they have 24-hour laborers, so it’s good. Russia has same like United States, but we use people from the little village to work in the farm. The companies they have its own boss to take the people to the farm. In Mexico, seems like a lot of people come to work the farms in the United States, but in Mexico, they have a hard time to get people into the farms, because there is a lot of industry growing in the areas, so you have problems to hire people to the farms. So that the reason in Mexico they try to put in every day more technology to use less people. But still, for example on the sow farm, they have maybe 2 or 3 people working at night, but wean-to-finish is the same like in United States, they start to work early and go maybe in the afternoon at 5 or 4 o’clock they go home from the farm.  In China, also, I started to see a problem. You know, the economics [24:00] in China is getting better. The people in China, you know they live in the farms. But sometimes they stay in that living area for 3 months and they have to go out for 2 weeks. So, the people to see their family is very hard. So, little by little, those companies I visit, they start to have some problems. So maybe, pretty soon, they have to change. Either maybe put some houses to have families close to the area, and so on. So, I don’t know. The world is changing. In Russia, the same, you know. The people in the village they start to emigrate to the big cities and get a better job in the city. So, I think the challenge to work on the farm in the future will be very hard. So, I think will be a good idea to think more in artificial intelligence and try to get less use of people and the people more specialized, so they can do a better job.

C: I love it.



We wanna take this break to thank our sponsors, The Sunswine Group, NutraSign, Swine Nutrition Management and Pig Progress.  But we also wanted to remind you of our new Facebook group, the Global Swine Professionals.  We’re gonna be doing something fun; some live interviews, some Q&A and we just wanna hear from our audience, so that’s a great place for you to take the time, leave us a comment, tell us what you wanna hear, or volunteer to be on our show, because we’re always looking for those awesome pork producers around the world.  Well, that’s all I had, so let’s get back to that appisode now.



C: So, in all your years, what is the most common biosecurity mistake people make?

Dr: If you read the SOPs on all these companies, you say, well, this is good. Right?

C: Yeah, but what’s the mistake? Where does it go wrong?

Dr: I think the compliance. Sometimes it’s not because the people want to do the breaks. Sometimes the people on the farm, they don’t understand 100%, so our job is to explain to them, you know with details: why we are taking a shower, why we are changing shoes in this way. So, try to explain even with a picture or making pictures in their mind; like the little bug of the shoe go inside and so on. So, you have to explain the people very clear, so the compliance is going to be better. Also, one big problem is the transport, right, so you have to wash your trucks. So, US have veterinarians and the company has veterinarian or myself, most of the time we go in and check the procedures, you know, very, very close and then we start to correct some of these procedure to make simple. You know, one of the big mistakes that I see in some companies, they try to be so complicated, the break may hard, and actually easy to break. In biosecurity, you have to be very simple, you have to understand your ire. What is the main source or challenge that is going to get that bug into your farm and start to tackle from there, and then start to train the people. I see training as the big issue, because you know if you read the SOP of these three companies, you say they shouldn’t have any problems, but we still have.

C: Well, I had a conversation with somebody who works for a big integrator, and they made the comment that we even need to change how we [28:00] train because most people working on farms, their education level to read an SOP doesn’t mean they know how to follow it. And I love your example of, you know, showing a picture of a bug in your shoe! How do you suggest you change how you train people? What are some of the things we can employ or that you’ve found that’s been successful?

Dr: Yeah. Well, for example, in China they have a good level of labor, and also since they have a live-in area, so when I go over there, I actually stay in every complex, maybe for one week with them. So we work during the days and they have very good facilities, like a meeting room with all the technology. So, every night, the thing that I saw during the day we’ll train these people. And I try to explain what is this risk, how they can stop it, so this is with pictures, with examples. All these things. And the other thing I feel like maybe is everywhere is like if somebody break the biosecurity; if it’s on purpose, of course you have to fire this guy. But most of the cases, it’s not. It’s because they don’t understand. So, I say you have a good system how to keep track of your biosecurity and where it breaks, try to find the reason and put the solution. But no pointing fingers. You have to find the why and then correct. So, this is the way that I’ve been working with the companies. You know and especially in Russia, they are very tough. In the past they fired the people, but now they try to do more training, personal training, constant training. This is something that every day – especially for example, if you have a manager [30:00] farm, so you train your managers, you know, with videos, try to explain why is the rule. In the past in Russia, you have to do like this, and they do even if they don’t understand. Now it’s different. Now they understand why we are doing these rules and why is they important for the company if they break these rules. So, there’s different ways. So, you don’t supposed to read the big SOPs; if you use more videos, and some drawings – like cartoons, those kind of things are very helpful for everybody. You know, one of the goodest opinions I have when we have started to work very hard in biosecurity, because you know the African Swine Fever, we started to do a lot of training. Then when you go to a farm, the people actually start to question, what about this doctor, what about that, what happen if I do this? So, when you start to receive those kind of questions, that means they start to think about it. When you have this kind of question from the people on the farm, that means that your message is getting better.

C: Well, you talked about we need to replace our employees, but now you’re also talking about this consistent training and talking to people. It takes you more than just going out there once a month, once a quarter. You need people on the ground reinforcing the foundation you build.

Dr: Yes. Yes. Exactly. I will say you have to work in different ways, you know. You see, you make your inspection, you put the correction, and then you have to do train the trainer. Right? So, who is in charge? For example, the managers of the farm, the production manager of regions, the vet? In some companies, they have a lot of vets in the company. Like in Russia or… [32:00] so you train those vets what they should do and how they train the people. In the sow farms or the finisher farms, the farm level, these guys are the ones who is going to help you. So, you go by layers. Then you have your message. Nothing is perfect. So, I know there is… of course, in the new people, this is another big problem. As you know, maybe United States is the same, but the rotation of the personnel is high. In some areas they are higher than the other ones. So, the new people is very important to you have to do the training biosecurity, to understand. Don’t let them read a book, try to understand. You have to explain them. So somehow, maybe the human resource – actually they have to have some people who understand the biosecurity, so the new people that arrive to the companies, they receive an introduction. Production and health – that is easy, because they are going to get the experience inside of the farm. But the biosecurity is very important to understand. So, that is another thing that you have to have kind of a program for the new people that arrive in, the rotation personnel; and saying this, we have to think also how to treat the people in the farms, because those people are the ones that are running the company. But you have to give them good working facilities, try to provide them with all the tools, so they have a good easy job in the farms. That will be the good things to think about and for the people, because you can be the best veterinarian, the best production guy, but if you don’t think of the people in the farm, your program never will fly. So, that is the [34:00] key part.

C: No. I agree. I love some of this basic foundation of new employees, which I think we’d have less turnover if we did that right in the first place. My opinion. But, you know, keeping up with your people, retraining, retraining the trainer… Do a lot of these farms, the good farms, that you’ve been on in your career – do they have fun?

Dr: Actually, you know, these farms I just visit in Mexico, I was very glad because when you start to see people that they have years, that means they like the company. And in some areas, for example in Russia, you can see some farms they are better than the other ones. So, that is the key part. So, when you see like that, at least myself, I start to try to observe the people, observe the production manager, how good is he to keep the people? So then when you identify those good people, maybe you try to mimic to the other farms. Especially in big companies. So, you have to identify those good people, and try to those guys they have to talk with the other guys how to do that. How to treat the people. Because it’s not only that you’ve given a good environment or good tools to work, it’s the, you know, the relationship, the human relationship with the other people, right?  So those are the kind of things that we have to start to look very close at. Especially in a big company, you have so many farms in the same company, so you have to kind of benchmark between your systems. The same you have to do with the production and health. So, you benchmark your different projects in your company. So, we have to start to look also in the people.

C: Mmmhmm.

Dr: The human resource rotation and those kind of things. [36:00]

C: This is great stuff. We could talk about this for hours, and I think you know, we could do our own training on people development, but before we go. I always give my guests the opportunity to turn the table and ask me a question. So, do you have any questions that you’d like to ask?

Dr: Well, we just met, and on the World Pork Expo, so I would like to see what you are doing in contribution to the industry, cause…

C: Oh, wow! [laughter] The contribution to the industry: well, for one thing, this last year and a half, I’ve been able to really explore what the industry needs and I’ve always been an innovative type of person, a researcher, and I got tired of doing research to create products for a company to sell vs solutions for my industry that I love and I’m passionate about. So I’ve done a lot of cool research. I’ve done stuff on passive immunity, innate health; I’ve done lameness and longevity. And a lot of that stuff is – you know, we look at lameness and longevity and it just gets worse; we haven’t gotten it better, which is very frustrating for me for somebody who spent so many years of her college education and career focusing on that and sow nutrition. And now, I’m really kind of exploring how to develop our employees, and not just maybe for the swine industry, but leading mentoring programs, trying to create new training systems, working with some different entities to bring in some different type of personnel, because we have to admit, all over the world as you said, as the economics change in countries, we’re going from more of a rural community to urban community, so how can we get more people back on the farm?  And I agree with you, higher quality, more specialized, use AI technologies. So {38:00] currently, I’m working on some programs with that. I’m doing some – trying to get some – products developed, some spark tools, so AI technologies – we’re workin’ on that behind the scenes. I don’t have a big corporate budget anymore, but I’m trying to find ways to get it done. And the other thing I’m doing is what I see a lot of, and I talk to people about research – everybody thinks I love research, and the active research is really difficult, but coming up with the question I want to ask and the problem I want to solve, and then looking at the data to see if I can solve the problem is what gets me excited. So, I’m trying to create a system and a program of data analytics and using different AI to harness the data we have to make better business decisions. I’m always for being more sufficient and sustainable and sustainability has been part of my initiative, but I’ve always thought profitability has to be the cornerstone of sustainability. So, at the same time of we look at environments and being good stewards, how can we use some technologies, use the data we have to drive better decisions. And that’s what I’m working on. If I’m just a motivation or I inspire somebody to do some great things, too, I hope as I tell my students, I like to create ripples that turn into tidal waves, and I hope that’s what my next 20-30 years will do, is create some awesome innovative solutions and help people be the professionals we need to change our industry for the better.

Dr: Yes, I’m agree. And also, the other thing with this African Swine Fever, you know, China and Russia, they have the problem and we have been doing a lot of changes in biosecurity, so those experiences, I would advise, for example here in Latin America and US. US is working on that already, but in Mexico and Latin America, we have to think and ok, it’s very important don’t let the African Swine Fever [40:00] get into the country, but you know what is the globalization, but if this African Swine Fever bug comes to your country, you have to be prepared as a company to don’t let it go into your system. So, maybe be open and listen the other countries and what they are doing; the good things they are doing. For example, in China, we changed – and in Russia the same – so be good resource in how to detect the problem on time and how to stop letting even maybe another small place if they’re going to have the problem, but your big companies have to be protected. So, think about it what happen if it come to your country, what I’m going to do. So, start from now, don’t wait until the bug is here, you know. Try to be ahead of the game and try to make some changes.

C: Future ready. I love that new term. I’m gonna use it a lot. Future-ready your operation. And if you don’t you won’t be in business in the future.

Dr: Yeah.

C: Well, Dr Moreno, it’s a pleasure. I’ve followed your career a little bit. I didn’t realize how many different countries you’ve worked in and the experience you had. And I thank you very much for sharing your story and your journey a little bit. I hope you have you back, talking about how we can learn from your experiences in China and Russia and be prepared, and maybe that would be a good follow-up episode for us to talk about. So, thank you again.

Dr: It’s a pleasure, and I hope with this we control the covid so I can travel back again.

C: Me, too. Me, too. [laughter] Alright, thanks.



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