Animal Health – Biosecurity is concerned with how we deal with both biological and biochemical substances and should be a part of all modern farm practices. The word first appeared in the wake of the foot and mouth outbreak of 2001 which affected cattle farms in all parts of the UK. It is concerned with the prevention of the spread of infectious diseases in all livestock not just beef and dairy cows. It is also important to prevent the spread of zoonotic diseases (any disease which can be spread from animals to humans).

There are many ways in which you can implement robust security measures on your own farm, and we look at some of them here.

Animal Health – Improving hygiene

Ensuring that your farm is clean is one of the easiest ways of improving hygiene and so it is vital that there is a cleaning regime in place. Yards and buildings should be cleaned down regularly using approved disinfectants. Defra publishes a list of these disinfectant products and for which disease they should be used. As well as the buildings themselves, it is important that all your farm workers practise good hygiene. This can include installing disinfectant foot baths outside sheds or at the entrance to the farm in which boots can be disinfected. Clothing should also be kept clean.

Infectious diseases can also be spread very easily from farm to farm and so it is vital that your own vehicles are kept clean otherwise you may be spreading a disease around your own farm and to others in your local area if you use your vehicle on public roads. Vehicles entering your farm should be monitored, particularly livestock and deadstock lorries. These may be visiting other farms and thus risk becoming potential carriers of contaminated material from one farm to another.

It is important that you maintain these biosecurity measures at all times even if you don’t think that you have any cause for concern. Very often diseases may not be obvious, particularly at the incubation stage, and only show themselves when it is too late.

Animal Health – Biosecurity and cattle stock selection

One of the most common ways of introducing disease onto a farm holding or to a hitherto clean herd is by the introduction of new stock. Animal selection must be made very carefully to ensure that only healthy animals are introduced into a herd. The BCVA (British Cattle Veterinary Association) produces a comprehensive checklist as an aid when selecting cattle.

When buying new stock there are a number of questions that you should ask the vendor. These include whether the stock for sale has been monitored for diseases, whether the animal has been vaccinated against any diseases, whether it has ever been tested for a disease and the results of those tests. It is up to you to satisfy yourself as to the accuracy of the information you are being given by the vendor. In most cases, any medicines administered to livestock must be recorded and so this is a source of information which can help you verify any information. Biosecurity is your responsibility, and so if you are unsure about the health of an animal, don’t buy it.

Quarantine

When bringing new livestock onto your farm you should always put them into quarantine for a period of time. The quarantined animal should be housed in a clean environment and fed away from any other animals, and its waste should be kept separate from that of your other animals too. The quarantine period should be for a minimum of three weeks. However, if you are monitoring for a specific disease you should consult your veterinary surgeon for guidance on a suitable quarantine period and for any other specific biosecurity measures you should be taking.

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