Maintaining high biosecurity can help combat disease spread

UK - Biosecurity is a great buzz word, but what does it really mean?
calendar icon 27 April 2007
clock icon 4 minute read
It means protecting the health of our animals and avoiding new diseases being introduced into the herd.

Biosecurity may also have a positive impact on your personal health by keeping out zoonotic diseases such as salmonella and leptospirosis, which are transmissible from animal to man.

Many people will question whether there is really any benefit from having biosecurity at farm level.

If we think back to digital dermatitis, that came into the UK from the Netherlands, or indeed foot-and-mouth, this is a classic example of how disease can be introduced on to our farms.

There is a very big difference between pig, poultry and dairy farms. If we visit pig or poultry farms, then on the professionally-run units you cannot drive on to the farm premises and you have to change into overalls and boots provided by the unit before you can walk around them. This is because of the high concentration of animals in pig and poultry units and the risk of disease getting into the herd being very significant.

Lorries are not allowed to come into contact with animals and feed lorries and vehicles collecting stock will load or unload from an outside area. This is biosecurity at its best and there are examples here that should be considered on dairy farms.

There is a wide range of common diseases that can be introduced on to a dairy farm including salmonella, BVD, Johne’s disease, leptospirosis, IBR, digital dermatitis, Staph. aureus mastitis, Mycoplasma mastitis and TB.

The risk of introducing TB should be reduced now due to pre-movement testing, but the others could be introduced from replacement animals, common watercourses, or spreading slurry from other farms onto your land.

Common watercourses are an easy way to introduce leptospirosis and salmonella. Spreading slurry from farms that have a problem with Johne’s disease could introduce the disease into your herd.

From this, we can see that biosecurity does not just apply to purchasing replacement animals, it also applies to general management.

Dairy farmers are very trusting individuals. They buy from farm sales and markets without knowing the disease status of the herd of origin.

One simple way to improve biosecurity in purchased replacements is to source your stock from a known farm. It would be helpful if your veterinary surgeon could speak to the vendor’s veterinary surgeon to make sure there are no problems that would cause concern to your herd. After all, the buyer is paying good money for stock and the health status, that is often overlooked, should be questioned.

If you are purchasing bulls, then one of the biggest risks is purchasing an animal infected with BVD. These animals are called PI animals and have a vat of BVD virus in their system that will spread throughout the herd.

All PI animals eventually die, but during the course of their life they cause considerable damage to animals they come into contact with.

For this reason, anyone who is purchasing a bull or youngstock should ensure these animals are blood tested prior to purchase to check their PI status.

In the foot-and-mouth outbreak in 2001, everyone got highly excited about biosecurity. Footbaths appeared everywhere and the country ran out of disinfectant as there had never been such a demand before.

Source: Farmers Guardian
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