When thinking about biosecurity on a beef farm, it helps to think both big and small

Disease can be introduced when people visit the farm, such as in the case of the bull sale

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When people think about biosecurity, they generally think about swine, poultry or dairy operations. But biosecurity is important on beef operations too and there are a number of things producers can do to minimize their risk.

“Dairy, swine and poultry are in barns, so biosecurity is easier to control, whereas in the beef industry, the cattle are managed on bigger land bases and pasture, so it’s a harder concept to think about,” said Ceanna Tannas, a registered animal health technologist with Veterinary Agri-Health Services in Airdrie.

Maintaining proper biosecurity helps maintain animal health and prevent disease. Consumers are interested in biosecurity and programs like the verified beef program have biosecurity components. Since cattle are more valuable right now, people are doing anything they can to ensure that their animals are healthy.

In order to get a proper handle on biosecurity, it’s worthwhile to think about it in terms of big and small items, said Tannas, a fourth-generation rancher who raises Black Angus cattle near Water Valley.

New arrivals

The big picture involves quarantining any new animals that come to the farm for about two weeks, to see if they get sick in that time. Do your homework, buy your animals from reputable places and get the animal’s vaccination records.

“That’s a big thing,” said Tannas. “Before you buy new animals, you want to get their records ahead of time, so you minimize the risk of them getting sick.”

People in the beef industry might not think about all the people who come on and off their farm.

“You have to start thinking about how these people can introduce disease as well,” she said.

Disease can be introduced when people visit the farm, such as in the case of the bull sale. That’s where planning ahead can make all the difference.

“When all those vehicles are coming directly onto your place, you don’t want them coming into your corrals or near the animals,” said Tannas. “You probably want them to park in a field.”

You can tell people to wear clean boots or shoes, and include this message in all your advertising promoting the sale. Alerting people ahead of time can reduce the risk that they could be offended by the request. You can also have a boot dip at the entrance to your place.

“Try to explain to people that you’re trying to be biosecure,” she said.

If you’re buying or shipping animals, you should always request a clean truck that has been hot washed and sanitized. Always ask for a clean truck, instead of assuming the truck will be clean.

“Always request that it is done and don’t allow truckers to scrape out on your land,” she said.

Avoid sharing

Biosecure practices can also be implemented in the small, day-to-day treatments. Calves that need to be treated with oral electrolytes for scours are usually treated with a bag or a bottle with an esophageal feeder.

“What people may not think about is that these same bags are often used for milk when a calf is first born and needs colostrum,” said Tannas.

She advises using separate bags for each procedure, and the bags should be clearly labelled, even if they are washed between procedures.

She also recommends disposal needles.

“A lot of ranchers buy multi-use needles,” she said. “You can use them more than once, but that gives producers the wrong idea that they last longer than disposal needles,” she said. Tannas recommends buying disposal needles, and changing them every 10-15 animals. Disposal needles are aluminum, so they can be detected in carcasses if they break off, which isn’t the case for multi-use needles.

When calves are scouring in a pasture, you can reduce your risk of transferring it to another pasture by washing your boots between pastures.

“It’s a small thing you can do, and you just need some disinfectant soap to do it,” said Tannas.

The team at Veterinary Agri-Health services has been talking more with their clients about bio-security and has been giving them some standard operating procedures to give them some ideas about what they should be doing.

Anyone who is thinking more about biosecurity should write down their standard operating procedures and goals.

“If you write it down, you’re more likely to do it,” said Tannas. Producers should also talk to their veterinarians, and may want to look for more information in the Beef Code of Practice, on the verified beef production website, or in the National Canadian Beef Cattle On-Farm Biosecurity Standard, which can be found by a web search for “National Canadian Beef Cattle on-farm biosecurity standard.”

About the author


Alexis Kienlen

Alexis Kienlen lives in Edmonton and has been writing for Alberta Farmer since 2008. Originally from Saskatoon, Alexis is also the author of two collections of poetry, a biography, and a novel called "Mad Cow."



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