The recent outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza in the upper Midwest is a reminder of the importance of good biosecurity.
Specifically, a biosecurity plan is designed to prevent the spread and movement of infectious diseases onto the operation. Following is a brief description of the parts of a biosecurity plan.
Cattle health starts with acquiring animals from sources with known and trusted herd health programs. Nationally, the most widely recognized health program is the preconditioned feeder calf program. In this program, the feeder calf receives prescribed vaccinations, and there is a specific management protocol. A good health program also includes having protocols in place for handling sick animals, downer animals, mortalities and new/returning animals. A quarantine of 30 days is advised for newly purchased livestock or animals returning from another premise or exhibition.
Restrict access to your cattle and property. Livestock operators should have perimeter fencing and post a sign requesting that visitors check in at the office. The Iowa Beef Industry Council has some of these signs. Access to cattle pens, feed mixing/storage areas and treatment areas should be available to employees only. Prevent cattle from having contact with free roaming animals such as rodents, birds, cats, dogs and wildlife.
Cleanliness begins with wearing clean clothes, disinfecting shoes and washing your hands before handing your livestock. This also extends to your visitors. If they will be near your cattle, request they wear clean clothing and provide plastic boots to slip over their shoes. Regularly clean and disinfect the areas where animals are housed and all equipment that may come in contact with manure. After treating a sick animal, clean and disinfect the equipment before treating the next animal.
Do not share equipment and vehicles between farms. If you must share, be sure to clean and disinfect the equipment or vehicle before bringing it to your property.
Handle feedstuffs carefully. Store feedstuffs in a separate building from farm chemicals or treated seed and use the feedstuffs at a rate to minimize spoilage. Ideally, equipment should be dedicated to the handling of feedstuffs, and not used for the handling of manure.
Keep good records including deliveries of cattle and feeds, vaccinations and treatments, Beef Quality Assurance protocols and feedyard self-assessments.
Know your veterinarian’s phone number and report any sick animals you have or may have seen. You should report dead animals, such as wild birds or other wildlife. Do not pick them up with your bare hands. If you have any cattle mortality, have your veterinarian examine the carcass for cause of death.
And finally, realize that you, the cattle producer, can do a lot to protect the health and biosecurity of your cattle. Be proactive – have a biosecurity plan and follow it!