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Biosecurity: Keeping Your Herd Safe

Expanding a herd with new animals can be exciting, whether it is a new breeding bull, young stock to add genetic diversity to the herd, or bottle-babies to raise from the ground up. However, it is easy to forget about the potential for new animals to bring disease to the farm. Basic biosecurity methods can reduce the chance of introducing infectious diseases when making new additions to the herd.

Before You Invest in New Animals

Pre-purchase health analysis can be as simple as visual inspection of the animals by the purchaser or veterinarian to rule out overt signs of disease, such as pinkeye, lameness, nasal discharge/cough, warts or ringworm. It is also valuable to know the animal’s vaccination status as well as the health of the herd the animal originates from.

Diagnostics, either prior to introduction to the farm or prior to joining the rest of the herd, can also be an important part of biosecurity. In cattle, we most commonly screen for Bovine Viral Diarrhea (BVD) Virus, Theileria, Anaplasmosis and Johne’s disease.

Small ruminant diseases of concern include Caprine Arthritis Encephalitis (CAE) virus in goats and Johne’s disease. A fecal egg count for parasites is also important because barberpole worm is a life-threatening disease of sheep and goats that can be difficult to eliminate once it is present in a herd.

Before The New Animal Joins the Herd

Once purchased, it is important to quarantine the animal prior to introduction to the rest of the herd. This is especially critical in animals that come from stockyards or animal swaps. These are often stressed animals that have been exposed to other stressed animals with significant potential for disease exchange. Quarantine should last for at least 21 days and even longer if you are unsure of the animal’s health status or health history. Quarantined animals should be fed and cleaned last to help prevent human cross-contamination into your herd.

Final Safety Measures

The final step in biosecurity is introducing the new animal to your herd. At this time, the new animal should not have shown any overt signs of disease while in quarantine. After introducing any new animal, you should monitor the herd for signs of disease including but not limited to coughing, reduced feed consumption, skin or mouth lesions and sores and diarrhea. These same biosecurity measures should be considered for animals traveling to and from fairs.

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