Fattening pigs are often infected with campylobacter. To eliminate campylobacter from the pig population, a top-down approach, involving the breeding and reproduction farms, seems appropriate. In order to investigate the effectiveness of a top-down approach, sows' faeces from the following farms were analysed for the presence of campylobacter: one specific pathogen free (SPF) farm, three top-breeding farms with no connection with SPF breeding, and a breeding farm repopulated with SPF sows after a period of vacancy (farm 5). The faeces samples from the SPF farm were free from campylobacter. The three top-breeding farms provided faeces samples which were 98% positive for campylobacter. However, only 22% of the faeces samples from farm 5 were positive for campylobacter. In a period of 20 months, the percentage of sows infected with campylobacter on farm 5 did not significantly increase. Genetic typing with ERIC-PCR and RFLP of campylobacter isolates from one of the top-breeding farms and from farm 5 showed a high diversity of campylobacter types. The results suggest that a campylobacter-free pig population can be established in breeding farms by combining a top-down approach (campylobacter-free top-breeding farms) with a strict regime of hygiene management.