Be Wise with Biosecurity

Published on Fri, 11/05/2021 - 1:34pm

Be Wise with Biosecurity.

 By Jaclyn Krymowski.

Keeping the dairy herd at its top performance level involves an adequate dose of preventative care. Prevention is a mindset that ought to find its way in all aspects of herd management from finances to human safety. But one of the most important is prevention against animal disease as a single outbreak of the right pathogen could potentially to derail an entire farm.

With this in mind, every practical effort to prevent or reduce any disease outbreak should be taken – and it all starts with a simple yet firm biosecurity system and protocol. Biosecurity is not only the first defense against introducing new diseases to the farm, but it can also help cut back on the risk of antibiotic resistance of current ones and slow or reduce the spread of outbreaks should they occur.

In an article for The Cattle Site Derek Armstrong, AHDB Lead Veterinary Science Expert explains:

“The term biosecurity actually embraces a complete concept of risk assessment and reduction which is aimed at maintaining and improving the health and, therefore, welfare, productivity and profitability of the herds and flocks that contribute to our livestock industry.”

How Disease Enters the Herd  
Knowing how contagious diseases affect a herd – and where they can come from – should be part of the foundation in developing or assessing biosecurity programs. Many of the major bovine health threats and preventatives measures are universal, but there may be some specific measures relative to certain locations, seasons or epidemics.

Infectious disease transfer can be either/or direct and indirect, that is via contact with infected animals or with contaminated vectors (clothing, equipment, feedstuffs or insects to name a few). These enter an animal’s system once they invade an external or internal barrier via ingestion, inhalation, skin, reproduction or fluid contact.

Importance/Benefits of Biosecurity
Remember, biosecurity isn’t just about keeping your herd safe from outside diseases, it’s also about protecting vulnerable groups and/or barns from ones that are already on the farm. Think of it as the foremost line of defense.

Disease outbreaks, through an entire herd or specific groups, can have devastating impacts regarding profitability and animal welfare.

According to Dr. Stelian Baraitareanu and Livia Vidu in their paper Dairy Farms: Biosecurity to protect against infectious diseases and antibiotics overuse, there are five foundation principles to ensure a healthy herd. Those five are biosecurity, surveillance, resilience/immunity, biocontainment, and control of disease spread within the herd.

Some of these, such as biocontainment and control programs, also function as a sort of “backup” to prevent any emerging diseases from spreading. These principles can also result in greater productivity, early detection of infection and reduced treatment costs if outbreaks are prevented.

For some herds, a closed herd is the best route or having a herd that is as close to a closed herd can be the most efficient but isn’t always possible for some.

In all cases, the National Animal Disease Information Service recommends taking precautionary measures to reduce or prevent the introduction of disease to your herd from outside sources and there are four major components. Those four components include the selection of purchased animals, isolation following the purchase, movement control, and sanitation.

Remember, any time new animals are brought into the herd (including bringing in heifers from another location) can potentially expose the entire herd to infectious agents if you’re not careful. When selecting animals from another farm, it is important to know what the health risk might be of bringing in an outside animal.

How to Implement
Making any biosecurity program work ultimately hinges on the team effort behind the right protocols. It doesn’t need to be complicated or expensive, but it must be consistent especially in areas of sanitation and animal movement.

The first step is to set clearly defined on-farm protocols within the herd. This includes details like mandatory boot scrubbing stations between buildings or groups and scheduled cleaning and sanitation processes. Animal movement should incorporate designated sick pens and adequate separation between calf facilities and at-risk cows.

External biosecurity measures need to consider the whole scope of the herd and specific situations. If a herd is closed and never accepts new animals, there should still be protocols to maintain biosecurity integrity by reducing spread from potential vectors (or carriers). This covers requirements such as vehicles and equipment be hosed when arriving from different farms or sites, a vaccination protocol and the control of pests that could carry diseases from other farms.

Open herds that accept new animals should have a receiving program that includes isolating new arrivals for some time followed by possible disease testing and/or vaccinations.

Regardless of a herd being open or closed, regular testing can be an efficient way to know the current herd health situation and to maintain it in the future.

There are several factors, including farm size, location and layout that will all have an impact on the design and implementation of a biosecurity program. While the guidelines are general, the overall strategy needs to be customized for each dairy, with the guidance of a veterinary professional if possible.

Besides cutting back on costs and helping keep animals more comfortable, biosecurity will also be a tool to ensure that your milk and culls remain safe for human consumption.