Take Steps Now to Make a Biosecurity Action Plan

Biosecurity is top of mind for many dairy and beef producers, following the discovery of avian influenza virus Type A (H5N1) in dairy herds for the first time this spring.

“This discovery has brought a higher level of awareness for producers to take biosecurity seriously, and to take proactive steps to protect their animals and their business,” said Joe Gillespie, DVM, Boehringer Ingelheim.

Developing and implementing a biosecurity action plan can help limit the potential access of pathogens coming in or going out of your operation. Dr. Gillespie recommended the following four tips to help you get started:

1.    Start with the basics

“A biosecurity plan doesn’t have to be complicated,” asserted Dr. Gillespie. “If you’ve considered what your risks are and have worked with your herd veterinarian to develop a plan that helps reduce those risks, that’s a great start, and you can build on it over time.”

Having a plan for new animals arriving on the farm is a good first step to help reduce the chance of pathogens being brought into the farm via animal movement. Work with your herd veterinarian to develop protocols for testing and quarantining animals to reduce the risk of introducing new pathogens to the existing herd.  

Another biosecurity basic is limiting nonessential access to animals and facilities. “If you’re not an essential part of the production team, there should be no need for you to be in with the animals,” said Dr. Gillespie.

If visitors do need to be in with the animals, provide disposable footwear, disposable clothing covers and other precautions that limit the ability for a pathogen on their person to spread throughout the operation. Require anyone coming onto the farm to check in with the office, so you have a way to track who’s coming and going and manage traffic flow.

2.   Implement employee training

Once you have a biosecurity plan in place, it’s important to maintain that plan and regularly train employees on protocols.

“Training employees on biosecurity protocols at least quarterly helps strengthen their understanding of the plan and their observation skills to help them identify risks,” Dr. Gillespie stressed.

Review your farm biosecurity plan with your herd veterinarian annually, when significant changes to your operation happen or when your risk level increases. For example, you may need to adjust your plan when building new facilities, exploring new, diversified market opportunities or when the disease risk is elevated.

3.   Use your resources

There are many industry resources available to help you build a biosecurity plan. Dr. Gillespie recommends starting with your state Department of Agriculture or Animal Health Department. Making connections and having a plan on file with your state agency can be an advantage if a disease outbreak does occur.

“If you have a biosecurity plan on file, such as a Secure Beef Plan or Secure Milk Supply Plan, your state agency knows you’ve put forth the effort to understand your biosecurity risk,” said Dr. Gillespie. “If there is a disease outbreak, producers with a plan in place will have better access to markets or other avenues to manage their livestock, making commerce easier.”

In addition to a biosecurity plan, Dr. Gillespie recommends securing your premise identification number (PIN) or location identifier (LID), if you don’t already have one. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, this information allows state officials to quickly and precisely identify where animals are located in the event of an animal health or feed safety emergency.1

4.   Understand the role of vaccines

Vaccines play an important role in protecting cattle from common everyday health challenges, such as bovine respiratory disease. However, vaccines alone aren’t enough when it comes to a comprehensive biosecurity plan.

“Having animals vaccinated and immunized is important, whether you’re building a biosecurity plan or not, but many transboundary diseases don’t currently have vaccines available,” noted Dr. Gillespie.

Transboundary animal diseases (TADs), like foot-and-mouth disease and avian influenza viruses, are highly transmissible livestock diseases that can cross borders and spread quickly. TADs pose a serious threat, endangering animal well-being and affecting international trade and global food security. 

“Implementing a biosecurity plan that assesses and prepares you for both the everyday and the less common, but potentially deadly, pathogens will help you protect your business no matter what comes your way,” concluded Dr. Gillespie.

Talk with your herd veterinarian today for more information about biosecurity plans and protocols.

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