Background: The recent avian influenza epidemic in Asia and the H1N1 pandemic demonstrated that influenza A viruses pose a threat to global public health. The animal origins of the viruses confirmed the potential for interspecies transmission. Swine are hypothesized to be prime "mixing vessels" due to the dual receptivity of their trachea to human and avian strains. Additionally, avian and human influenza viruses have previously been isolated in swine. Therefore, understanding interspecies contact on smallholder swine farms and its potential role in the transmission of pathogens such as influenza virus is very important.Methods: This qualitative study aimed to determine swine-associated interspecies contacts in two coastal areas of Peru. Direct observations were conducted at both small-scale confined and low-investment swine farms (n = 36) and in open areas where swine freely range during the day (n = 4). Interviews were also conducted with key stakeholders in swine farming.Results: In both locations, the intermingling of swine and domestic birds was common. An unexpected contact with avian species was that swine were fed poultry mortality in 6/20 of the farms in Chancay. Human-swine contacts were common, with a higher frequency on the confined farms. Mixed farming of swine with chickens or ducks was observed in 36% of all farms. Human-avian interactions were less frequent overall. Use of adequate biosecurity and hygiene practices by farmers was suboptimal at both locations.Conclusions: Close human-animal interaction, frequent interspecies contacts and suboptimal biosecurity and hygiene practices pose significant risks of interspecies influenza virus transmission. Farmers in small-scale swine production systems constitute a high-risk population and need to be recognized as key in preventing interspecies pathogen transfer. A two-pronged prevention approach, which offers educational activities for swine farmers about sound hygiene and biosecurity practices and guidelines and education for poultry farmers about alternative approaches for processing poultry mortality, is recommended. Virological and serological surveillance for influenza viruses will also be critical for these human and animal populations. © 2012 McCune et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.