Keeping your dairy farm biosecure is key to having a healthy well-running farm operation.
What is biosecurity?
Biosecurity is basically methods to apply that can help you lower the risk of pests, weeds and the spread of infections or diseases.
If you choose to ignore the importance of running a biosecure farm – the consequences might be right around the corner.
What are the consequences of a hazardous farm?
There are plenty of them. Top three are weeds, pests and livestock diseases. All enough to not only make your farm run slower but also to make a big dent in your farming profit.
Dairy farms, like any other farms, have their biological security needs. Livestock farms especially need even more protection than vegetable or crop farms.
Because animals are more vulnerable due to their active nature, excretions, and youth or pregnancies.
Also, just one animal getting sick is enough for the disease to spread quite rapidly to other animals. More than that, losing an animal or more isn’t only upsetting because you are losing resources – but because as farmers we care about our animals. We want to protect them and give them a good life – even if it’s farm life. When we fail – it surely takes a heavy toll.
So, let’s make sure you have plenty of farm biosecurity measures applied! Here’s what you need to do:
1. Biosecurity and Cows
Your cows are the first to protect to have your farm biosecure.
You need to make sure that any new cows coming into your cattle farm are healthy and don’t pose a risk to the others.
This also applies if you send off your cattle outside of your dairy farm to agistment or for other purposes and then they return to your farm. You need to make sure they will be well-taken care of where they go and that they’ll be protected from viruses, infestations and diseases.
Here are a few questions to ask yourselves about the biosecurity of your animals:
- Have all new arriving cows at your farm had their health status inspected?
- Have newly purchased cows arrived with a National Vendor Declaration (NVD) and an Animal Health Declaration (AHD)? NVD and AHD contain information on animal treatments and health status.
- Have you placed all new cows in a quarantine space for at least a month?
- Have you tested each cow 2 or 3 weeks before you placed it in your quarantine space?
- Are you keeping possibly ill cows separate from your most vulnerable cows (young or pregnant)?
- Are all of your cows identified and recorded with the NLIS (National Livestock Identification System) rules and regulations?
There are other actions that you can take which are important to keep your dairy farm biosecure. You really need to vaccinate your cattle – it’s very important as to prevent diseases that happen in your region. You also need to do a thorough mastitis prevention treatments, pay close attention to milking and have a good and quick plan for disposing of dead stock.
In case you have already answered yes to all of the above questions and are doing all the other actions as well – then kudos to you! You’re doing a great job at keeping your dairy farm biosecure by correctly managing the health of your dear cows!
In case you have a few nos or not sure in there – you might want to start doing a better job ASAP!
Here’s what might happen if you don’t respect health guidelines when it comes to your dairy farm cows:
- Sick animals which lead to pause in milking, veterinary bills, treatment, risk of complications and death as well as the risk of spreading the disease to your other cows and even other farms
- Contaminated milk
- Less profit, higher costs and even bankruptcy
- Emergency animal disease outbreaks - Emergency Animal Disease Watch Hotline on 1800 675 888 (Australia) – Just in case!
None of these sound fun, do they?
2. Biosecurity and Feed
Just as important as keeping your cows in check is making sure that what you feed your cows is healthy and risk-free. If what you feed your cows in contaminated in any way – there’s no doubt about it that your cows will have a huge risk of becoming ill.
That’s why it’s mandatory you check not only your feed – but pasture as well. Here’s what to check:
- Are you 100% banning feed coming from vertebrate animals, with the exception of tallow or gelatine?
- Does your feed supplier provide a CVD or Commodity Vendor Declaration?
- Do you carefully inspect your newly bought stock feed to make sure it’s free from pest damage and contamination? If it’s bad to feed – do you have a special place to throw it out?
- Do you have a biosecure place to store your stock feed, in order to prevent it from getting bad from contact with worms and larva, wildlife and rodents or domestic animals?
Are your answers, yes, yes, yes and yes? Then again, congratulations! You are doing a fantastic job at keeping your dairy farm biosecure by keeping your stock feed biosecure! And we like you for doing it as much as we’re sure your cows do as well.
The above questions apply to stock feed, however – it’s just as important that you keep your pasture biosecure.
You might be wondering how to do that – especially if you have hectares and hectares of pasture. Even though you might have a large stretch of land, there are affordable ways to keep your pasture biosecure. Having your paddocks well fenced is a good start.
- Not grazing unhealthy animals is also mandatory
- Doing good pasture management that involves weed control and pest control as well
- Taking care of your pasture with really good rotational grazing
- Correct soil fertilization
You can take advantage of a remote pasture measuring tool such as ours to help you keep your pasture biosecure. It will only help you have a secure dairy farm that poses no threat to your cows, farm, profit or surrounding farms and consumers.
What else is there when it comes to farm biosecurity? I just can’t leave out how important it is to have people, vehicles and equipment coming in and out of your farm sanitised.
3. People, Vehicles and Equipment
If you haven’t given a second thought to how people, vehicles and equipment can damage the biosafety of your dairy farm – you’ve done wrong, mate!
Think about it – besides your cattle - people, vehicles and equipment move around most, if not more, around your farm. Probably from more risky areas to more vulnerable areas and vice versa.
In that case, it can be easy to carry viruses from one side of the farm to another more vulnerable one. Also, people, vehicles and equipment might be coming in and out of your dairy farm and getting in contact with many possibly perilous environments, other people, and other animals.
Which is why you need to pay extra attention to them. How? Ask yourself these questions:
- Do you keep a record of people, vehicle and equipment movement around your cow farm and in and out of it?
- Are your staff minimising the amount of time they are lending vehicles and equipment to other farms?
- Are your staff cleaning the vehicles and equipment before and after they lend it to another farm?
- Are visitors made aware of restricted areas and kept away from vulnerable areas if they haven’t been “scrubbed clean”?
- Does your dairy farm have an area where visitors can clean up before accessing allowed areas?
Hopefully, you are an excellent dairy farming manager when it comes to farm biosecurity measures – and you have answered with plenty of yeses.
If no – don’t worry, changes can always be made. The good news is that biosecurity measures are usually quite affordable – they require some effort, labour and time but it’s not a high investment.
Even so, investing in the biosecurity of your farm is a worthy investment that can lead to successfully avoiding many unnecessary problems and even tragedies.
If you want to have a dairy farm with no pests, weeds or infections and diseases you need to implement biosecurity measures. If you don’t have such a plan in motion, it’d be best for you to do an analysis of how your farm currently handles these issues.
Starting to implement these methods doesn’t need to happen over-night. Starting with just one minor change can be a great beginning and already reducing the risk of many health threats to your farm.
So, make sure your pasture is well-managed to avoid weeds and pests; that your cows are healthy and protected, and that people, visitors and equipment are scrubbed “to the bone” before and after they leave your farm and also often while on your premises.
Have a biosecure dairy farm – have a healthy, long-lasting and profitable dairy farm!
Any questions ask me in the comment section below and make sure to share this article if you think it is helpful to other dairy farmers as well!
- Ollie Roberts, 06 November 2019