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When you invest your hard earned money into good livestock, it only makes sense to protect them the best you can. Most people know to build good fences, and guard against predators, but will often ignore good basic livestock biosecurity measures.
Biosecurity means guarding against introducing biological risks on your farm. Good management practices go a long way in preventing serious risks to the health and well being of your valuable and well-loved livestock. There are several steps you can take to ensure good livestock biosecurity on your farm.
Guard Against Cross-Contamination
People always love to come and visit your animals when you have a farm. While it can be fun to have friends and family in your barn, you have to be aware of biological contaminants they can be introducing. Parasites, viruses, and bacteria can all travel in on shoes and clothing. This is an even bigger risk if your visitors have livestock of their own. Any visitors to our barn are asked to wear protective plastic boot coverings, and a fresh set of clothes that hasn’t been worn around other livestock that day. Some people use a disinfecting spray or dip for shoes and boots before entering livestock areas. Hand sanitizer is another good offering to keep in your barn for before and after visits to the animals.
It’s also important to remember to respect biosecurity measures when visiting another farm. We’ll often bring our own shoe covers just in case. When we return home, we strip off all clothes that were worn on the visit, and change into fresh clothes before entering our own barn.
It’s also important to guard against cross-contamination in your own barn. If there are new or sick animals being kept in quarantine, you don’t want to be potentially bringing any illness back to the rest of your barn. During chores, always save entering a quarantine area or handling quarantined animals, for last.
Maintaining a secure quarantine area is essential for livestock biosecurity. When any new animal enters the farm, they are kept in quarantine for 2- 4 weeks or longer. This area must be removed from other animals, where there is no chance of direct contact, or airborne pathogens being a risk. This way the new animal can be assessed for overall health and condition, and any necessary testing can be performed. It also allows time for stress related illnesses to become apparent.
Having a quarantine area available for existing livestock is also essential. Viruses, respiratory infections, bacterial infections, etc. can all spread like wildfire. Being able to remove clearly affected animals can help stop the spread of contagious conditions. It’s also good for confining an animal with an injury that has limited mobility.
Keeping Equipment Clean
Regularly maintaining and cleaning your equipment helps to maintain good management in a lot of ways. Tools such as hoof trimmers, thermometers and clippers that are used on numerous animals, should be sanitized between each use. Needles should never be reused on other animals, and used needles should never be introduced into a bottle of medication. Food bowls and water buckets should be cleaned routinely. Implements such as shovels and pitchforks should be hosed down and cleaned regularly as well.
Livestock Biosecurity on the Move
Transporting animals presents its own set of risks. Be sure if you’re transporting livestock across state lines for sale or show, you have the necessary health certification in place. Traveling puts a lot of stress on animals and can trigger a host of illnesses. New soil means new potential biological contaminants. Always do your best to reduce stress and exposure to new grounds and animals the best you can. Temporary pens with fresh shavings and disposable tarps can go a long way in cutting down on exposure risks while traveling.
Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is
Invest in livestock from healthy, hearty herds/flocks, with good management and biosecurity practices in place. Buy your poultry from NPIP certified breeders. Check to see if the goat keeper you’re buying from does any annual disease testing. Whether for meat, milk or pleasure, you want your livestock to give you a good return for your investment. It’s well worth spending a little extra money upfront to ensure you’re bringing home a healthy animal that won’t introduce unnecessary risk to your existing livestock.
It’s also good practice to do what testing your can yourself. Learn to draw blood and pull fecal samples for routine testing. Have a good working relationship with a vet that can help you when needed.
Why Livestock Biosecurity Matters
When you rely on your livestock to feed your family, be it meat, milk or eggs, they are a valuable investment. You put your heart and soul into their care in addition to your hard earned money. You live with them, side-by-side, every day. Imagine just how devastating it could be to lose your entire heritage breed laying flock to Marek’s disease. Or have to make the decision to have your milking herd put down due to CAE. Or watch your beautiful beef cattle waste away to Johne’s disease.
Sadly, this has been a reality for a lot of people who have introduced diseases into their farm without knowing it. Good biosecurity can be easy to practice once you get into the habit, and can save you from a world of heartbreak and loss.