Gary L. Bowman, D.V.M.
Extension Veterinarian, Swine
William P. Shulaw, D.V.M.
Extension Veterinarian, Cattle and Sheep
The Ohio State University
What Is Biosecurity and Why Is It Important to Me?
In the context of livestock production, biosecurity refers to those measures taken to keep disease agents out of populations, herds, or groups of animals where they do not already exist. Biosecurity measures can be implemented on a national, state, or herd level. Currently, there is heightened awareness of national biosecurity as the United States attempts to keep foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) out of its animal population.
In addition to national concerns, individual states take measures to prevent the entry/reintroduction of livestock diseases they have been able to prevent/eliminate from their herds by setting requirements for arriving animals. Examples of diseases that are of particular concern to states include brucellosis, tuberculosis, and pseudorabies.
The responsibility for herd-level biosecurity usually rests with the herd owner or management team; they try exclude any disease which is not already present in the herd or limit the spread of disease within the herd. Examples might include Streptococcus agalactiae mastitis, bovine virus diarrhea, ovine progressive pneumonia, and swine dysentery. To be successful, biosecurity plans must address how the group of animals will be isolated away from other groups, how traffic (movement of people, animals, and equipment) will be regulated, and how cleaning and disinfection procedures will be used to reduce pathogen levels.
Reducing the risk of disease in your animals starts with selecting healthy animals for your project. If you are purchasing them, try to purchase from sources that have a well-developed health program in place. Ask questions about the health of the herd. Then work with your veterinarian to design a health program specific to your needs. For many 4-H and FFA members, this will be fairly simple and may only involve some vaccinations, parasite control, and a sound feeding program.
If you plan to exhibit an animal in a terminal show (meaning one in which all the animals are sold for harvest near the end of the fair) and if you do not take that animal to other shows during the summer, the risks of transmitting disease among animals is small and largely limited to your specific farm situation and the animals you have. However, if you plan to exhibit your project animal at one or more shows before the fair, exposure to other animals, equipment used on other animals, or livestock trucks and trailers will increase the risk of your animal contracting and spreading an infection. For example, if someone else hauls your lambs to an exhibition in a trailer that has been contaminated with the germs that cause foot rot in sheep, your lambs could catch that infection. Likewise, if you share grooming equipment with someone at a show, it is possible that the germs that cause "club lamb fungus," in sheep or "ringworm" in cattle, could be spread to your animal.
If you take your show animals off the farm and expose them to other animals, there is also the possibility that they may bring back new germs that could spread to the other animals, usually of the same species, on your farm. This is most common with the viruses and bacteria that cause respiratory diseases in cattle and sheep, and many herds and flocks have become infected with new diseases in this way. The recent outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in the United Kingdom has made all of us more aware of how easy it is to spread some infections among our animals.
Exhibiting livestock is an enjoyable and educational experience for most people. Following a few simple guidelines to help keep your livestock healthy during the show season can pay big dividends.
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Keith L. Smith, Associate Vice President for Ag. Adm. and Director, OSU Extension.
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