Building biosecurity

Biosecurity and the dairy farm

Biosecurity is the protection of livestock from exposure to disease causing organisms. Dairy farms in general tend to be very open in terms of policies regarding visitors.

Good biosecurity practice includes having:

  • A biosecurity plan
  • Disinfectant footbaths at all entry points, particularly on entry to livestock housing
  • Ensure tankers and all points of entry delivery lorries do not enter livestock areas.

If you are careful when you move livestock onto a farm, and within the farm (particularly if the farm is on more than one site), this can greatly reduce the chance of a major outbreak of disease. For example, any cattle must be transported only in vehicles that have been properly cleansed and disinfected.

Always know the health status of the cattle you are buying or moving

You should have isolation facilities so that you can isolate and observe/test new animals for a suitable period when they arrive, before they join the rest of the herd. 

Wildlife exclusion

Badgers and dairy herd health is a contentious issue. Studies by CSL (Central Science Laboratories) have shown badgers frequently visiting farms throughout the year. Dietary analysis from badger faeces appears to indicate the importance of farm-derived foods to badgers with a peak in use during summer and a smaller one in winter (although this is far from conclusive).

To minimise the risk from badgers, buildings should be designed to prevent cattle and badgers coming into direct and indirect contact. The benefit will depend on the level of TB in the area and the frequency of breakdowns experienced.

Exposure at grazing cannot be prevented but often cows will also spend a significant length of time housed; by implementing badger-proof measures around the building this will reduce the risk. This will be more cost-effective in the initial building phase instead of remedial action later.

Perimeter feeding increases the opportunities for badgers to access the cows' feed. It is often not possible to make farm buildings totally badger-proof, and badger-resistant fencing will need to be sunk approximately 0.5m below ground level, and at least 1.2m in height to limit their potential access, obviously this increases cost. An alternative to fencing is filling a 0.5m perimeter trench with concrete and erecting concrete panels to a height of at least 1.2m.

Many farms are now securing their premises against badgers by installing electric fences around all the buildings.

Many species of birds (including starlings and pigeons) can access cattle buildings.  Not only do these birds eat the feed dispensed for the cattle but they can also deposit faeces on the feed surface and associated metalwork, which increases the risk of transfer of contagious infections such as Salmonella and E. Coli. 

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