Why is Biosecurity so important in my cattle operation?

MSU Extension Montana Nutrition Conference and Livestock ForumBy Dr. Jeanne M. Rankin, MSU Extension, Agro-Emergency Projects Coordinator- jeanne.rankin@montana.edu

This is the time of year that people are showing their cattle at large exhibitions across the country and exposing them to many other ranches and farms and different diseases and parasites. We don’t often think about the potential to bring home disease from shows that we are so excited to exhibit our animals in to advertise our great breeding programs.

We are busy feeding, clipping and prepping our animals and getting all of the feed and tack ready to go, we often forget to think about minimizing our animals’ risk of picking up an infection at the show. Our animals are tied next to others and may have the ability to be nose to nose with other animals or to share feed and water buckets, thereby increasing the risk of bringing home a disease.

Most diseases of any significance to beef cattle are spread via the respiratory or GI tract- BVD, Johne’s, or any of the shipping fever diseases (IBR, BRSV, Pasturella, Haemophilus or PI3) and take several days to a week to develop an infection in our show animal. Most people might be feeding them separately at home prior to the show but afterwards they are often turned out amongst the rest of that age group, able to spread any respiratory or GI secretions with everybody. By simply keeping them or any new additions to the herd penned separately for 2 -3 weeks we can avoid spreading a contagious disease to our entire herd.

I have heard stories of people going to cattle shows and coming home with either BVD or Johne’s. BVD can be managed and treated- of course with reproductive losses as a potential; but Johne’s disease is completely devastating and impossible to remove from your landscape once it is present. If we can apply good Biosecurity practices for the common diseases we will be able to minimize the risk of highly contagious diseases like FMD, wiping out our individual herd as well as the national herd.

Top 10 Livestock Biosecurity Tips

My top ten taken from my Farm First Biosecurity ™ program:

  1. Have a Bio-Security Plan posted, review it annually and stick to it.
    • Assess your risks (Animal movement, Disease risk, Facilities, Feed and bedding, Veterinarian, Human movement)
    • Manage the risks after identification
    • Communicate the mitigation factors (Signs, Boot wash, Employees, Visitors)
  2. Keep a Closed herd-limit/restrict non-natural additions
  3. Isolation pen for sick or purchased animals
  4. House common aged animals together-“All in-All out” Neonates are very susceptible to diseases and many neonatal diseases can be prevented by reducing exposure to older animals.
  5. Reduce stress of crowding by having adequate bunk space, shelter and limiting additions
  6. Proper Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for environment- footwear, coveralls, foot baths, gloves etc.
  7. Separate cleaning utensils for sick pen and healthy pens. Different forks for hay versus manure pile
  8. Limit visitors from:
    • Similar species operations- Dictate fresh change of footwear and clothing before visiting your barn and pens
    • international visitors from livestock operations- Foreign Animal Diseases
  9. Wildlife/Pets Biosecurity
  10. Have an Emergency Preparedness/Evacuation Plan

Selected websites for further review

Please visit with your herd veterinarian for more information relative to managing/minimizing risks specific to your herd.