Going Green

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Bio-Security and Cattle

Bio-security is a subject that brings connotations of terrorism to mind. However, prevention of terrorist attacks on agricultural producers is only a small part of on-farm bio-security.

Bio-security has been defined as the set of policies and procedures implemented to protect resources from a biological attack. In its broadest sense, this applies to protecting livestock from the introduction of disease through natural vectors as well as by artificial means. Most diseases can be prevented or reduced through proper attention to sound management practice. This would include proper nutrition, a good vaccination program, and a sound bio-security program for your operation.

When developing bio-security procedures for a livestock operation, the following is a sampling of potential disease transmission factors that should be considered:

1. Contact with Neighboring Herds. Cattle coming in contact with animals across the fence could be exposed to diseases for which they are not fully protected. If your cow/calf operation shares a fence with a neighbor running stocker cattle that were recently purchased from a livestock auction, they may be exposed to many diseases.

2. New Animals. Any new animals introduced into the herd should ideally be isolated for a period of time (generally about three weeks) to allow for the incubation of any diseases they may have been exposed to prior to arrival at your operation. Be certain they are healthy before introducing them into your herd.

3. Instruments and Equipment. When processing cattle, disinfect/sanitize all equipment thoroughly prior to working the cattle and use disinfectants on instruments that are to be used. Many diseases may be spread through body secretions such as blood, manure, and saliva that may linger on instruments. Proper disinfection between animals can prevent or limit the spread of disease. Disinfectants can not be used on needles or syringes used for administering modified live virus vaccines.

4. Water Tanks. Water tanks should be sanitized on a periodic basis. This is especially important in confined situations such as a feedlot or grower yard. Always sanitize water tanks before introducing new groups of cattle. Tanks used in sick or convalescent pens should be cleaned regularly.

5. Natural Water Sources. If one of the water sources for your cattle is a stream, be aware of operations upstream from you. Contaminants as well as diseases may travel in the waterway.

6. Manure Management. Pens should be cleaned of manure on a regular basis. Some diseases can survive in manure for extended periods of time. Allowing it to build up increases the chances of exposing, or re-exposing cattle to disease.

7. Contaminated Feed. Feed can become contaminated. Such contamination could be in the form of manure in hay, mice and rats in bagged feed, or feed that is left in a bunk for extended periods and becomes moldy. Feeders and bunks should be cleaned on a regular basis.

8. Carcasses. Dead animals should be disposed of properly. Some diseases may live in the carcass for a period of time. Carcasses should immediately be moved away from healthy animals.

9. Diagnostics. When animals become sick or die, samples should be taken to determine what diseases are present. Such diagnostics along with implementing the advice of a qualified veterinarian will aid in the control and prevention of future disease.

10. Natural Vectors. Some diseases are carried by birds and insects. Excessive bird droppings in and around water tanks create a risk for diseases such as coccidiosis. Insects such as flies and mosquitoes also may spread disease between animals.

11. Other. Some other things to consider might be a) boot disinfection – especially after working with sick animals, b) insisting that cattle trucks be washed before transporting your cattle, c) restricting access to your operation to known individuals.

The above items are a basic outline of issues that should be considered, or included in an on-farm bio-security program. It is highly recommended that you set a time to work with a licensed veterinarian to develop such a program for your operation. The reward will be healthier animals and reduced operating costs due to sickness.

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