Creating a biosecurity plan for a farm – a self-paced guide exploring all your options

The incursion of Mycoplasma bovis into NZ has ramped up on-farm conversations around biosecurity but this topic is far broader than just preventing one disease from entering your farm. In summary, good biosecurity is about reducing the risk of disease presence, or transmission (in this case among animals) both between farms and within farm. Biosecurity is also about securing a farm business against unwanted plants and pests but here our focus is on animal diseases.

Most animal production farms, but in particular dairy farms, have young animals segregated by age group. For example, calves are run as a group. This presents opportunities for biosecurity practices to be applied to reduce the risk of disease between age groups, within farm.

Take a few minutes to work through these questions and answers

The brief materials you are about to work through come from a farmer workshop designed to support a Sustainable Farming Fund project into on-farm biosecurity conducted by Cognosco (Anexa’s research team). This workshop is designed for small groups on-farm or delivered off-farm.

You can either attempt to undertake the suggested task yourself, prior to looking at our suggested answers or just go straight to the answers. It is entirely up to you.

Create a list of the diseases (or animal health problems) you are trying to control

Mycoplasma bovis has been a recent example of a cattle disease we are trying to prevent from passing from one, already infected farm, to an uninfected (clean) farm. There are other diseases where preventing the existence of the disease in any group of animals on farm is not practical but reducing disease risk is achievable. Rotavirus diarrhoea in calves is a good example of one such disease.

Your task

Try creating a list of all the cattle diseases you can think of where biosecurity measures would assist in reducing the risk of disease being present or affecting an increasing number of animals. It is useful to make 3 lists – one for young stock, one for adult cows and one for bulls.

After you have made your list, try putting a mark next to all the diseases that can also infect humans – here Lepto is a good example of a disease that can be transmitted from your cows to people working on the farm.

Our suggested list comes from the Anexa Biosecurity Risk Assessment tool and is further down this web page.

Answer:

What tools or processes can we use as part of a biosecurity plan?

There are many tools or processes that can be used as part of a whole farm business biosecurity plan that will form effective measures to either prevent disease incursion onto a farm or reduce the risk of disease.

Your task

Try creating a list of these tools or processes that may be part of your biosecurity plan “toolkit”. It is useful to conceptually think of these things as a physical item (eg: a boot cleaning and disinfection station) or a process (eg dividing the farm up into 3 biosecurity zones). Your list will include thigs that can be applied to animals only, or people only, or both.

Suggested biosecurity tools and processes

This suggested list has been produced from multiple sources: The Dairy NZ Biosecurity Warrant of Fitness resource, the Anexa Biosecurity Risk Assessment tool and group work undertaken during the piloting phase of the farmer workshops previously described.

Items/tools:

  • Visitor signage
  • Map of farm biosecurity zones (green, amber, red)
  • Boot and personal protection equipment (PPE) cleaning and disinfection station (C&D)
  • Suitable disinfectants
  • Machinery or contractor equipment cleaning area
  • Disposable milking gloves and dairy only aprons
  • Calf shed only PPE/boots
  • Double fencing or stand-off areas along fence lines
  • Dedicated sick animal areas (calves and adults)
  • Dedicated quarantine area for new introductions
  • Completely separate sheds for rearing calves and bobby calves
 

Processes:

  • Good, accurate NAIT and ASD records
  • Closed herd policy, as far as practical
  • Avoid saleyard purchases
  • Understand animal health status of origin farm where stock are purchased
  • Quarantine for 5-7 days of new stock introductions
  • Good, accurate, animal health records
  • Good, robust vaccination plans (all age groups)
  • Restrict visitor access to certain farm areas
  • Only use farm vehicles in the “red zone”
  • Limit or prevent co-grazing of young stock at graziers
  • Clean and disinfect daily calf rearing equipment, especially feeders
  • Prevent tanker track grazing
  • Pest control in the dairy (eg rodents)
  • AB only in the min herd during breeding/mating period
  • Limit sources of herd bulls
  • Milk clinical mastitis cases last and segregate in herd
 

Use these example farm scenarios to explore options

Now that we have collated a list of biosecurity tools or processes it is worth taking a few additional minutes to see how they could fit into 4 example farm scenarios. The maps of these farms follow below (not all the grazing platform is shown for simplicity).

While the 4 farms appear very similar, each scenario differs slightly in its underlying biosecurity risk.

Your task

Examine each of the 4 scenarios, in turn, and try and work out how the inherent biosecurity risk of the farm, based on physical layout, alters.

Finally, from the list of items/tools, imagine how you might place these items within the farm environment based on each scenario map. For example, you may wish to place biosecurity related signage at the tanker track entrance or next to the dairy entrance.

Farm scenario 1

Farm scenario 2

Farm scenario 3

Farm scenario 4

How do the farms biosecurity risk change between scenarios?

Between scenario 1 and 2, the position of the house entrance alters from off the tanker track to off the main road. This may alter the risk of visitors accessing the tanker turning circle and farm amber or red zones simply due to the amount of visitor traffic to the house.

Between scenario 2 and 3, a dedicated sick cow paddock has been added which alters the biosecurity risk for this particular area. For example, it may be wise to double fence this paddock. However, creating an area, restricted for sick animals is a good risk mitigation practice. This area should not be used for weaned calves at any time.

Between scenario 3 and 4, the position of the bobby calf shed has altered. In scenario 4 this shed is now stand-alone. If, in scenario 3, the partition between the rearing and bobby shed was not solid, the risk of disease transmission to the reared calf area increases. Therefore, the placement of, for example, a C&D station in the rearing area may alter as would the use of dedicated PPE in the calf rearing area.

Thinking through how the biosecurity items/tools might be deployed on these example farms is a useful exercise prior to planning out their implementation on your farm.
Good luck with making your biosecurity changes on farm.