By Ann Hoskins, Vita Plus calf products coordinator
What is biosecurity and where does it start?
Biosecurity refers to those measures taken to keep diseases out of populations, herds or groups of animals where they do not currently exist or to limit the spread of disease within the herd. The responsibility for farm-level biosecurity belongs to the herd owner and it starts at home with your protocols.
A successful biosecurity plan must address isolation of new animals brought to the farm, isolation of sick animals, regulation of the movement of people, animals, and equipment, and procedures for cleaning and disinfecting facilities.
Let’s start where the calf starts – in the maternity pens. Maternity areas tend to be high traffic areas on most operations. Because vet rooms tend to be in the same area, we often find a sick cow hanging out next door to a maternity pen. Keep calves isolated from the sick cows as those animals can shed pathogens in their manure. Fecal-oral contamination is one of the biggest causes for the spread of disease. If possible, do not put a calving cow in the same pen as a sick cow. Disinfect a sick cow’s pen before moving a calving cow into that area. Limit people traffic in and out of maternity areas. Maternity managers should be clean, wear gloves and wash their boots frequently.
Once the newborn arrives, remove the calf from the maternity area as soon as possible and place it in a disinfected, clean, dry area for processing. Once the calf is processed, it can be moved to its new home. The trailer, cart, etc. you use to move calves should be cleaned and disinfected regularly and not used for anything else.
Pre-weaned calf areas
Ideally, whether they’re in hutches or a barn, new calves should be placed on new dirt or an area that has had time to “rest” between calves. Always wash and disinfect these areas before the new calf arrives.
In most cases, you are using a skid loader of some kind to clean between calves. Do you have a dedicated bucket for these areas? How dirty are the tires from cleaning other parts of the farm? If you don’t have dedicated equipment, make sure you are at least cleaning the buckets and tires before entering the calf areas.
Always work with the youngest calves first, older calves second and sick calves last. If you handle a sick calf first, make sure you wash your hands, change gloves and disinfect your boots before handling the next calf.
Have you ever thought about the equipment that may be driving by your hutches – feeding carts, trucks, trailers, etc.? Does driving through the calf area serve as a short cut to other parts of the farm, leading to a lot of cross-traffic? Think about traffic flow when placing hutches or looking for a location for a barn. Look for spots where your calves can be isolated from people driving in and out of the farm as well as cross-traffic of farm personnel.