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About Biosecurity

Biosecurity means taking steps to prevent the introduction and spread of infectious disease. As a critically important part of disease prevention and control, biosecurity is a subject that should be continually addressed as part of normal farm management.

Biosecurity Big 5

  1. Livestock movement – This is the most likely route for introducing disease. Run closed herds and flocks, otherwise buy from accredited schemes or trusted sources.
  2. Quarantine – Always keep introduced animals isolated. Ensure best practice quarantine conditions and check quarantine periods for key diseases.
  3. Diagnostic tests and preventative vaccines – Use these whenever recommended as knowing disease status is important and prevention is better than cure.
  4. Hygiene – Practice good hygiene including the use of effective disinfectants. Provision of good environmental conditions will lead to reduced risk of infection.
  5. Health plans – Improve disease prevention and control by developing flock and herd health plans in consultation with your vet. Use and update them regularly.

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Key Points

  • Good biosecurity practices do not only apply to newly purchased livestock, but also to returning stock from overwintering or summer grazing. Remember these animals have been off farm and potentially mixing with animals from other holdings or wildlife, so the same good practice guidelines should be applied as for bought-in stock.
  • Try to adopt a closed herd or flock management policy wherever possible, but if you do have to purchase livestock ensure you know as much as possible about their health status.  Always aim to purchase animals that have been accredited under a recognised Health Scheme if at all possible or at least know the disease status of the farms you are purchasing from.  When buying replacement stock, try to purchase directly from individual flocks or herds and move them directly from the farm of origin to their new premises in your own transporter.
  • It’s not only about introducing a disease that you currently don’t have, but it may also apply to introducing a problem you don’t have. Think about treatment failure as well as the disease itself, such as anthelmintic or microbial resistance.
  • When moving animals onto the farm, always ensure they undergo an adequate period of quarantine in secure accommodation before introduction to your existing animals. Check the quarantine period for diseases you are trying to prevent as there are different recommended quarantine times for different diseases. For most of the key diseases it is crucial that you ‘isolate’ rather than ‘separate’ incoming stock from those already in the herd or flock.
  • Never mix animals together without considering the possible disease risks.
  • A disinfectant footbath, brush and separate over clothes should be provided at the entrance to the quarantine building. Quarantined animals should be fed, watered and inspected last, followed by hand-washing where possible.
  • Diagnosis is critical to effective disease control and many key diseases now have sensitive diagnostic tests and/or preventative vaccines available. Any testing and vaccination programmes are best discussed with your vet and included in interactive health plans to ensure timely and accurate application.
  • Check and test animals for disease and treat if necessary: For the individual farmer, there is an economic benefit to quarantine treatments as any required treatments are confined to a small group of animals rather than a whole flock or herd.
  • Good environmental hygiene, such as clean, disinfected premises, equipment and personnel is very important in the prevention and control of disease. Different diseases may require particular disinfectants therefore it is critical you select the correct disinfectant for the disease(s) you are aiming to control. Poor hygiene and environmental conditions lead to increased risk of infection. Strive to improve standards outside, in animal buildings and in feed storage areas.
  • Develop pro-active strategies for disease prevention rather than adopting a reactive approach. Discuss the development of health plans, disease surveillance programmes and disease response strategies with your vet on a regular basis. Interactive health plans are now commonly used, allowing both vet and farmer to work remotely on the same document ensuring regular updating and checking.
  • Farm security is critical for disease control: Examine ways in which you can improve farm security to prevent animals or people inadvertently bringing diseases in. Focus on farm boundaries such as fencing, farm entry and exit points, and farm buildings.

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