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Biosecurity: Start with small steps

Beef Column: Prevent disease outbreaks by disinfecting and isolating.

October 6, 2022

3 Min Read
Beef cattle on farm
OUTBREAK PREVENTION: There are many ways for disease to come in contact with your cattle. Implementing a few low-cost biosecurity measures can decrease the risk of transmission and allow for tracing of disease movement in the case of an outbreak. Fran O’Leary

Animal disease outbreaks are a common sight in today’s headlines. Avian influenza, African swine fever, and foot-and-mouth disease are just a few examples.

Producers can take steps to minimize the risk of a disease outbreak on their livestock premises. When beef producers increase biosecurity measures to decrease the likelihood of foreign animal diseases, they are also taking steps to reduce exposure to and disease losses from more common endemic diseases such as bovine viral diarrhea, infectious bovine rhinotracheitis, mycoplasma, Johne’s disease, shipping fever, trichomoniasis, warts and ringworm.

Disease pathogens spread by various means. New animals, animals returning from livestock shows, nose-to-nose contact among cattle, and any animal that has been away from your herd can pose a biological risk by carrying pathogens and exposing herd mates. Implement 30-day isolations for new and returning animals.

Cattle can come into contact with diseases through fluids such as manure, mucus and semen. Inanimate objects such as tractors, feed wagons, trucks and shared equipment can also transmit diseases when exposed to pathogens and not properly disinfected before returning to or visiting your facility.

Visitors and farmworkers can carry diseases on their clothing, footwear and hands. Wearing clean clothing, washing and disinfecting footwear, and washing hands before visiting and arriving to work can help control the spread of disease.

With so many ways for diseases to come in contact with your cattle, implementing a few low-cost biosecurity measures can decrease the risk of transmission and allow for tracing of disease movement in the case of highly contagious animal disease outbreaks. Remember, premises ID numbers must be renewed every three years, and every location where animals are kept will need a separate premises ID number. Think of it as the location having the ID, not the cow enterprise.

Proper signage helps manage traffic and contamination risks by informing visitors, family members and employees of biosecurity requirements. Post biosecurity signs in key locations such as main entries, building and facility entries, farm perimeters, employee work areas, animal feed and water stations, and anywhere equipment contacts animals. The Center for Food Security and Public Health has signage to download and print.

Focus on footwear

Footwear can carry disease pathogens to your farm when worn in contaminated areas. Decrease the risk of contamination by either having designated “on-farm” and “off-farm” footwear, requiring visitors to wash and disinfect footwear upon arriving and leaving facilities, or providing shoe covers or disinfectants that stay on the farm. Limiting where visitors are allowed reduces the risk of disease introduction.

Keep track of animals, people and equipment movement with movement logs. Movement logs will help facilitate tracking the source of disease and how it could move to infect other herds. During a foreign animal disease outbreak, tracking disease locations and animal movement will be necessary for future animal movements.

Beef producers can start protecting their cattle and their livelihood against common diseases and a foreign animal disease outbreak by implementing a few minor changes in farm protocols. Keep premises ID numbers current; stop the spread of disease with proper cleaning and disinfecting; notify visitors, family members and workers of biosecurity protocols; and record the comings and goings of people, animals and equipment. Take the small steps now to ensure proper biosecurity.

Ihde is the Extension agriculture educator in Crawford and Richland counties. This column is provided by the University of Wisconsin Division of Extension Livestock Team.

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