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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 should be continually addressed as part of normal farm management. As livestock farms strive towards net zero, improving biosecurity on your farm will prevent disease, increase production efficiency, reduce waste and greenhouse gases (GHG), increase profitability, and improve animal health and welfare. There are many other reasons to improve biosecurity. As many of the livestock diseases featured here are zoonotic and thereby a risk to public and environmental health, reducing disease transmission becomes very important for One Health. Antimicrobial and anthelmintic resistance is increasing, which as well as posing a real risk to livestock health, also increases the risk to public health, so another important reason to practice effective biosecurity.

This fact sheet and accompanying poster can be used as part of an animal health plan to reduce or prevent disease burden. Some important points to successful biosecurity are outlined below:

  • Good biosecurity practices should be applied to newly purchased livestock and 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.
  • Adopt a closed herd or flock policy wherever possible, but if you do have to purchase livestock always aim to purchase animals that have been accredited under a recognised Health Scheme or at least know the disease status of the farms you are purchasing from. Try to purchase directly from individual flocks or herds and move animals directly from the farm of origin to their new premises in your own transporter.
  • 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 the 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.

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Key Points

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, quarantine treatments have an economic benefit 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. Poor hygiene and environmental conditions lead to increased risk of infection. Strive to improve standards 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 crucial and allow 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 from inadvertently bringing diseases in. Focus on farm boundaries such as fencing, farm entry and exit points and farm buildings.
  • Zoonotic pathogens may be transmitted between livestock and people and some of these pathogens can cause disease in both animals and people, while others may be more of a public health risk eg: food and water-borne pathogens. Application of targeted biosecurity interventions will help to reduce pathogen transmission and protect animal, public and environmental health.

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