We all may have watched movies where global health is threatened by a deadly virus or infection that brings the world closer to doomsday. Well, those movies might be fictional, but biosecurity threats aren’t.
If you run a dairy farm, you must already understand the importance of maintaining herd health. Pests, weeds, infections and diseases are critical barriers to animal development and dairy farm success. Poor animal health can increase morbidity and mortality and have adverse effects on reproductive performance, livestock productivity and overall farm profitability. This necessitates the development of a well-thought-out herd health plan that includes practices to prevent and reduce the risk of pests, weeds and infectious diseases in a dairy farm.
Keeping that in mind, we have put together effective practices to keep your herd health in check and increase biosecurity within your dairy farm. But before that let’s take a quick look at what biosecurity actually means and why exactly biosecurity is so important.
WHY SHOULD YOU CARE ABOUT BIOSECURITY IN YOUR DAIRY FARM?
In simple words, farm biosecurity is a set of measures that are designed and implemented to reduce or prevent the introduction and spread of harmful pests, weeds and diseases amongst plants and animals. Like any other farm, dairy farms also have specific biological security needs that must be fulfilled to ensure a smooth farm operation and profitability. In fact, livestock farms are more in need of a biosecurity plan than crop or vegetable farms because animals are more vulnerable due to their active nature, pregnancies, excretions and youth. Even one infected animal can spread the infection or disease to other healthy animals and affect the performance of the entire herd. Besides, when you run a dairy farm, it is important to ensure the proper health of your animals not only because they are your resources but also because you care about the animals and the environment as a farmer.
MEASURES FOR MANAGING LIVESTOCK AND BIOSECURITY RISKS
A dairy farm is vulnerable to a number of biosecurity risks and the most significant of them all is the introduction of new animals in the herd. Other factors that can trigger the introduction or spread of infections or diseases in animals include contact with contaminated objects, equipment, vehicles, people or insects.
Mitigating threats to livestock health and safety on a dairy farm requires taking certain steps, such as
Preventing and Controlling the Introduction of Disease, Weeds and Pests
Infections and diseases usually find their way into a dairy farm when newly purchased animals are introduced in an existing healthy herd or when existing animals that have been sent off to an event, show or for any other purposes outside the farm get back to the original farm. Before you acquire or introduce any animals to your farm, you must make sure they are healthy and don’t pose risks to other healthy animals. Also when you send your animals outside your farm, make sure they will be taken care of properly and will be protected against diseases and infections.
Before you bring in new animals or cattle that have been off-farm for some time, ask yourself the following questions:
- Have you inspected and checked the health status of all the new or off-farm animals that are arriving back at your farm?
- Have all your new animals been quarantined in an isolated setting for at least a month before being placed with other animals?
- Do your newly purchased animals have a National Vendor Declaration (NVD) and an Animal Health Declaration (AHD)? These are legal documents that contain information on animal health status and medical treatments.
- Are you keeping animals with possible signs of illness separate from your most vulnerable livestock, like young or pregnant cattle?
Answering these questions will help you identify and reduce health risks amongst your dairy animals to a great degree. In addition, listed below are some important measures you can take to minimise biosecurity risks across your farm:
- Assess the physical state of the animals. Healthy animals are usually active and alert, have bright eyes, and they breathe, urinate and eat regularly.
- Carefully study the disease status of the originating property of new animals
- Observe new animals before allowing them to be in contact with other animals on the farm
Managing Livestock Health and Hygiene
- Identify all the animals within your dairy farm and maintain regular records on each animal – including vaccinations, medical history, illnesses and treatments.
- Maintain a clear record of the success or failure of treatments given to the dairy animals.
- Timely schedule and keep track of your animal vaccination and treatment plans.
- Provide each dairy animal with well-balanced feedstuffs that meet their daily nutritional or special dietary requirements, if any.
- Check feedstuff for mycotoxins and unwanted ingredients before feeding animals.
- Make sure that feed or equipment used for feeding is not contaminated with manure.
- Avoid stepping in the feed bunks.
- Always use separate equipment or containers for manure and feed handling.
- Have an experienced vet examine all the dead animals for infections or diseases.
- Disinfect all reusable feed equipment or farm tools.
- Have a proper carcass disposal plan in place that clearly defined the transportation route, burial sites, composting and incarcerating procedures.
Controlling Farm Entry and Access of Visitors
Visitors and farm employees often end up unintentionally introducing infectious diseases amongst farm animals. And that is why it is important to set certain rules for staff or outsiders to maintain proper hygiene at the farm and prevent your dairy animals from catching infections or illnesses.
Here are some steps you can take to control the entry of visitors and ensure protection against diseases
- Keep a consistent record of all farm visitors in a logbook.
- Control and restrict access of visitors to the barn/premises with animals.
- Make it compulsory for all visitors to wear clean clothes/boots.
- Visitors must use a footbath to clean and sanitise their boots before entering the premises.
The pandemic that struck us last year has shown us how maintaining hygiene and safety can go a long way to protect us against the spread of viruses that affect our health but pose a risk to our life. The same goes for your farm animals. Use the above mentioned information to ensure the highest level of biosecurity in your farm and increase your livestock performance and sustainability in the long term. If you need more information about biosecurity and livestock management, connect with KG2 experts. Our experienced team can assist you in making informed decisions about your livestock farm with data-backed advice and solutions.