The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Animal Health Monitoring System (NAHMS) conducted the Feedlot 2011 study, an in-depth look at large and small feedlots.

One segment of the study focused on biosecurity practices of feedlots that are designed to minimize the risk of disease introduction and spread on an operation.

One concern with biosecurity that probably does not make the radar screen very much is that 17.1% of feedlots had some animals leave the feedlot and return to a breeding or stocker operation, but only about half of them provided a segregated area that prevented breeding and/or stocker cattle from coming into direct contact with cattle on feed for slaughter.

The study notes that the majority of feedlots that fed any breeding cattle or stocker cattle housed some of these animals in pens that allowed nose-to-nose contact with cattle on feed for slaughter.

Nearly one-third of feedlots that did intend to return cattle to beef breeding did some pathogen testing on beef animals destined to be returned to breeding. 

Cats, dogs, equines and wildlife such as raccoons, squirrels, skunks and others are other animals named as coming into contact with cattle on feedlots.

As far as human contact, veterinarians, nutritionists and livestock haulers were noted as having frequent contact on the feedlot, however overall, only 25.1% of feedlots displayed signage directing that visitors check with the office before entering the feedlot. Larger feedlots (8,000+) were more likely to display such signage than smaller feedlots.

Most feedlots did not provide outer protective clothing or footbaths for visitors; however, about two-thirds limited access to animal areas, and 60% restricted vehicles from animal areas (more common on larger feedlots).

Almost twice as many larger (8,000+ head) feedlots never used the same equipment to handle manure and feed as did smaller feedlots. About one-third of the smaller feedlots routinely used the same equipment for handling manure and feed.

For those feedlots that did use the same equipment to handle manure and feed, 81% washed the equipment with water or steam and 6.3% washed and chemically disinfected the equipment between uses. 

In the event of a foreign animal disease outbreak such as foot-and-mouth disease, communication with and notification of the proper officials are vital. The study found that  94.3% of feedlots were very likely to contact their private veterinarian in the case of an outbreak of foreign animal disease.

See the USDA APHIS Feedlot 2011 study here.