Biosecurity: ensuring the health of your herd

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Despite the best intensions, biosecurity on farms can become lax in the winter months as producers are faced with wet conditions and cold temperatures. Biosecurity is defined by Extension's website as strategies and management practices that lessen biological risk. Measures taken to prevent the introduction or spread of disease is something every producer needs to be mindful of daily. Biosecurity topics may range from in-depth to common sense. This article aims to provide biosecurity reminders specific to cattlemen, but all livestock producers may benefit from its recommendations.

Tractors, skid-steers, trailers and trucks all have important jobs to do on the farm. These are also vehicles to easily spread disease. As lines of communication open between the producer and consumer, farms are becoming visitor sites to show people where their food comes from. New visitors on the farm increases the risk of a biosecurity breech. The Extension's website reminds farmers to keep visitor vehicles out of areas that are accessible to livestock. They also mention that when giving tours, have the guests move from younger to older animals.

Another tip from Extension's website is to wash and disinfect the outside and inside of trucks and trailers that carry livestock. Be sure to pay special attention to the cleanliness of the tires as they can track mud and manure from property to property.

University of Missouri Extension Livestock Specialist and County Program Director Wendy Flatt emphasizes the need for a biosecurity plan as producers approach calving season. She recommends producers keep a disinfectant solution and a scrub brush in their truck to clean their boots that go back and forth between farms, especially if they are having issues with scours.

"I try to stay away from areas I deem as high risk," Flatt mentions in relation to how she safely visits farms in her territory. "I clean my boots and make sure they are somewhat disinfected before I go to another place. The thing with swine is you can shower-in, shower-out type of thing but there's not that kind of biosecurity with cattle and other farms," Flatt said.

Introducing new animals to the herd
Dr. Scott Pfizenmaier, owner and veterinarian of Saline County Veterinary Service, in Marshall, runs a large and small animal practice. His daily schedule revolves around visiting different farms with sick or injured animals. Biosecurity is of upmost importance to his business.

"The sharing of other producer's livestock equipment, trailers and facilities can be a source of picking up an unwanted pathogen, but most new pathogens are carried in the live animal and to a lessor extent, in the forms of trailers, manure and sometimes dirty boots or coveralls," Pfizenmaier said.

The largest impact cost to the producer from a disease standpoint is the additions of new livestock to a herd, according to Pfizenmaier. Whether your new purchase is a bottle calf or a bull, biosecurity risks do not discriminate in age or gender of the livestock. Pfizenmaier advises that bull should be tested for trichomoniasis. Respiratory viruses can be brought into a herd through feeder calves.

"These should not be co-mingled to home-raised calves until after a 30 day quarantine period and probably a round of vaccinations to prevent these diseases," Pfizenmaier advised.

He also recommends that replacement heifers and cows added to a herd should also go through a vaccination protocol to match the immune status of the existing herd.

"All new additions to a herd, whether it be bulls, breeding females, feeder calves et cetera, should probably go through a quarantine regimen of time 30 days and space prior to herd introduction," he said.

Pfizenmaier recommends that a consultation between the veterinarian of the current herd and the veterinarian of the new livestock be held to match-up the health status of the cattle. This is beneficial to the producer because it allows all of their cattle to be on the same herd health program.