Infectious diseases cost cattle producers millions of dollars each year through decreased performance, treatment costs and death loss. While not all losses can be avoided, many can be prevented with a good biosecurity plan. Here are some things to consider when developing a biosecurity program for your operation.
Determine the Threat
Each group of animals will have a different level of risk. For example, a virgin bull from a reputable breeder with a complete vaccination and treatment record would pose less threat to your herd than a freshly weaned stocker calf from the sale barn. In addition, a mostly closed herd that produces its own replacements could be at a higher risk than operations that frequently introduce purchased animals. Even healthy animals can be carriers of a disease that could affect naïve herds.
Consider the economic impact of various pathogens and be sure that animals are vaccinated prior to purchase, or be prepared to manage them accordingly to minimize the impact. In any case, gather as much information as possible about the health management and vaccination history before purchasing animals, semen or embryos from an outside source. If possible, have your veterinarian contact the seller’s veterinarian prior to purchase.
Manage arrivals to prevent any fence line contact with existing animals for a minimum of 30 days. Do not use common feeding areas and water sources. Some groups may need to be separated longer, depending on the level of risk that the animals pose to your operation and the level of risk you are comfortable with. This could be after an observation period or after negative test results for various diseases.
Bulls and replacement females from a reputable breeder may be able to go into the herd quickly. However, replacement females with questionable backgrounds should be managed as a separate herd until confirmed pregnant with their next calf. For high-risk stocker calves, it is best to manage each group separately for at least 45 days.
Pathogens can be transmitted in many ways, including vehicles, people, other livestock, pets and wildlife. Limit equipment use to prevent fecal contamination of feed and water sources. Also, plan your route to feed sick or quarantined animals last. Design facilities to minimize the exposure of healthy animals to sick ones, especially the sick pen, as well as the location of the loading and unloading area. Be aware of who you allow on your operation and where they have been, especially international visitors.