Friday, October 29, 2010

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure- Biosecurity on the Dairy Farm

Everyone in the dairy industry knows what biosecurity is, but do we really pay attention to it as much as we should? Sometimes it takes a disease outbreak on a farm to really make biosecurity hit home. Careful attention to biosecurity can reduce cost of a disease outbreak and improve production and profitability.

Biosecurity is a combination of practices that the farm does to prevent the spread of disease onto the dairy farm. The producer or the farm owner is the real person in charge of biosecurity. A tight biosecurity program will minimize disease exposure and maximize resistance for the herd. It’s just like that decade old saying “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

The first step of biosecurity is to recognize and implement a regular plan of action on your farm. The plan should reflect farm goals for production and health. It is without a question how diseases actually spread between animals. Interaction through direct contact or surfaces is one of the greatest threats. In your plan, you should identify risk levels for specific diseases then a vaccination plan. It might be best to consult your veterinarian about your biosecurity plan and possible risks on your farm. Let’s take a look at some of the general risks that your farm deals with everyday.

New or Sick Animals
Introducing new animals to your farm is sometimes overlooked as a threat. Producers should make sure they know where the animal is coming from, such as what type of health program the farm has, the cattle vaccination plan, and what the farm’s biosecurity program looks like. When purchasing new animals it is always a good idea to ask questions about the farm’s health program.  Does the animal have health papers? Health papers would require a veterinarian to sign off on that animal signifying that it is free of disease.

When bringing that animal into your herd always isolate for at least fifteen days from the other animals. Testing the new herd addition is also a good idea. This will allow you to know if the animal has any unknown diseases that could spread through your herd. Vaccinate then give boosters as needed to these new additions.

New animals are not the only ones to isolate. Any animal that is showing signs of sickness or disease should be isolated. Boots should be washed and disinfected after caring for the sick animals. Your veterinarian will be a helpful resource to help develop a health program that includes vaccinations and parasite control for your herd. 

Maintenance in calving areas, isolation sick pens, calf hutches, and milking parlor are extremely important to keep clean. Keep soiled bedding to a minimum in these areas. When animals are removed, disinfect feeding and drinking areas as well as gates and anything else that was touched by that animal. This means after calving, sickness, or new animals, these areas should be disinfected. Calves need the best possible start so it is crucial that they have a clean environment. Cow housing is also important to keep clean to assist with the control of mastitis.

Visitors are expected on your farm, so it is best to have a plan before they enter. Some of your high risk visitors might be present everyday on your farm but also on other farms. These include veterinarians, haulers, hoof trimmers, and neighboring farmers. Make sure these folks are arriving with clean boots, equipment, and vehicles. If they do not have clean boots, provide disposable boots for them to wear. Always have extra disposable boots available for those questionable visitors. Cattle haulers tend to be a great risk to your farm because they pick up cattle from a variety of different places. For this reason, they should have limited access to the barns. Designate an area that is located away from the general dairy barns for haulers to pick up cattle. This will minimize the spread of disease from the trailer to the farm.

As the farm owner, you should be taking proactive steps to increase biosecurity on your farm. A proactive biosecurity plan can reduce the cost of disease on your farm. Your biosecurity plan could be your ounce of prevention. For more information on biosecurity, contact your county extension educator or veterinarian.

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