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Bio-security Affects Everyone: Tips to keep you and your animals healthy

By:  Stephanie Jaeger Whipps, Hubbard Feeds Inc.

If you are reading this blog it is highly likely that you own at least one type of animal. It may be a companion animal or livestock…maybe both.  It is that time of year at my house where we are weaning calves from multiple locations, horses and dogs are transported from place to place to help with the work, and there is constant traffic in and out of our yards.  We also acquired a few new barn cats and I am frequently visiting other producer’s places as part of my role with Hubbard. What I’m trying to get at, is there is a constant need to be vigilant regarding bio-security.  Not only on my ranch that I like to otherwise claim is “organized chaos”, but anyone who may come in contact with animals anywhere.

Like people, animals get sick. It can be something as simple as a cold or a downright dirty infectious disease that can spread like wildfire. Some diseases can be carried from one place to another on a person’s shoe, while others may require nose to nose or other close contact to be transmitted. In addition, there are many diseases that are considered zoonotic, meaning they can spread from one type of animal to a completely different species (including humans).  Examples of such illness include brucellosis, rabies virus, toxoplasmosis, and vesicular stomatitis to name a few. I am not trying to frighten you, but simply want to you to be aware of the possibility that your animals or you can contract one of these illnesses.  The good news is there are bio-security measures you can take to minimize the risk of spreading disease and keep yourself and your animals as happy and healthy as possible.  Below are some suggested practices:

Consider adopting a Bio-Security Plan. There are numerous guides and helpful resources on the internet from university extension and state vet offices to help you do so.

Be Alert. Watch and observe your animals for signs of illness, preferably from a secret spot so your interaction with them does not affect their behavior.

Know the warning signs of diseases of the animals that you care for.

Vaccinate your animals with vaccines that offer protection against diseases they may come in contact with. Work with your local vet for suggested vaccine protocols.

Report any severe illnesses or deaths affecting a high percentage of your animals to your veterinarian.

Quarantine new animals for a period of 3-4 weeks before adding them to your herd.

Isolate sick animals so they are not spreading disease within your herd.

Minimize access and entry to your operation with gates or limited number of driveways. Keep vehicular traffic in livestock and feed areas to a minimum.

Keep track of who visits your place and determine where they have been before setting foot onto your place. If they have been to a farm that may have been infected, ask to meet with them in a neutral setting not on your property.

Be cognizant of foot traffic; consider utilizing foot baths or disposable booties for visitors.

Keep Feeding and Feed Storage Areas Clean. Minimize varmint access to your stored feed, keep feed bunks clean and clear of feces and clean water troughs frequently.

Sanitize Equipment between Uses. Clean and disinfect animal husbandry equipment that comes in contact with animals between uses.  

Clean vehicles and trailers often. Scrape mud, manure and dirt from vehicles as to decrease risk of transporting pathogens. Wash tires and undercarriage of vehicles as necessary.  Frequently wash the inside of your trailers out to remove feces.

Do not share equipment with your friends or neighbors unless it has been sanitized. This includes clippers for show animals or even horse tack. 

Wash your hands frequently. You should do this for own health as well as your family, but also for the sake of your animals.

Change and/or wash your clothing and shoes after visiting off-site livestock (friends, neighbors, livestock shows) before working with your own animals at home.

As you can see, there are quite a few things to consider when it comes to bio-security.  To simplify it, bio-security is comprised of three major components: Traffic control, Isolation, and Sanitation.  If you effectively manage these pieces of the puzzle, you will go a long way in keeping you and your animals safe and healthy. 

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