Reducing the risk of secondary contamination from Ractopamine part 3

It's extremely important that youth exhibitors who participate in swine projects at their county fair or other livestock exhibitions take a few critical steps before bringing animals home to reduce the risk of exposure to ractopamine products.

A pigs head

In the spring of each year we see the snow begin to melt, flowers start to peak through the ground and youth who show pigs start to think about buying and bringing home the animals they will show at the county fair or in other livestock exhibitions. As we prepare to bring these animals home there are always biosecurity practices that should take place. These different practices will help reduce your animals’ risk of being exposed to disease or illness at a young age. This year, because of changes being made to the rules of some fairs and exhibitions it is extremely important that youth who will be showing pigs take some important steps and implement biosecurity practices before bringing their animals home.

Before you bring your pig home, it’s a good biosecurity practice to completely clean out and wash the trailer you’ll transport it in, the area where it will be housed and the equipment you’ll use with it (such as your feeder, feed containers, penning area, show equipment and feed storage area). Ractopamine dissolves in water, so a good wash with soap and water will help reduce the risk that your pig will be exposed to any ractopamine products that may be left over in its environment. For those that house their animals outside and are concerned about secondary contamination from the dirt in your housing area, ractopamine breaks down over time, so in many cases your pig’s exposure risk would already be low. To reduce the risk even more, you should thoroughly clean any non-porous areas that the pigs will be exposed to, including the animal housing area, pens, feeders, fencing and other equipment that may be used.

If you plan to show pigs at an event that allows the use of ractopamine and at an event that has eliminated its use, you’ll need to decide early in the project year which events you want to participate in and comply with the rules of each event. This may require you to change your feeding plan or to have different sets of pigs that you feed different diets. If you decide to raise different sets of pigs for different events, you will need to be careful to completely separate the pigs, feeding areas, equipment, feeders, bins, troughs and storage areas to avoid cross-contamination.

By taking these steps to clean and prepare the area for your animals you will be reducing the risk of secondary contamination from ractopamine especially if it was previously used on your farm. You will also be starting your project off right by minimizing the risk of disease or illness that could infect your pig at a young age and impact their growth and development because you have implemented good biosecurity practices. 

For more information on ractopamine, continue reading 2020 Swine Exhibition season changes and adjustments series Part 1: Changes to Ractopamine usage for pigs at several county fairs and exhibitions and Part 2: Important conversations to have with your feed supplier. Other resources including information and frequently asked questions about ractopamine have been developed by MSU Extension and are available for exhibitors, parents, county fair staff and exhibitions that are considering or have implemented a ban on this product. 

If you have any questions or would like more suggestions on this topic, please feel free to reach out to Nick Babcock MSU Extension 4-H Livestock and Veterinary Science Program Educator  at 517-432-1626 or by email at or Beth Ferry MSU Extension Pork Educator at 269-876-2745 or 269-927-5674 or by email at

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