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Current Biosecurity Practices


Interest in biosecurity as a component of herd health management has grown, and it is an important part of effective disease management and control. As a result, livestock producers have actively incorporated biosecurity practices into the daily management of their operations under the direction of veterinarians who provide health management services to their farm.

Relative to external biosecurity, adding animals to herds from external sources requires several steps that attempt to ensure that pathogens from the herd of origin will not be introduced into the recipient herd. Determining the health status of the herd of origin is a major step and requires that veterinarians providing health services to the respective herds clearly communicate the infectious disease challenges that are prevalent. Determining health status may require diagnostic testing to determine prevalence and exposure to specific pathogens. Testing before and after delivery is warranted to obtain sufficient information to establish health status. Interest in specific pathogens and applicable diagnostic tests may vary, but tests used to determine health status should be interpreted based on their limitations to provide reliable information for making herd health decisions. Isolation of incoming animals has proved to be a critical step in minimizing the threat of disease introduction. Isolation after receipt permits additional testing for pathogen exposure, vaccination and prophylactic treatment for diseases of concern, and general observation for health and welfare-related issues.

Relative to internal biosecurity, similar concerns arise when attempting to control existing pathogens on livestock production units. Awareness of the health status of the herd remains essential to formulate and implement herd health programs. Consistent with external biosecurity measures, diagnostic testing for purposes of disease surveillance is important, in addition to use of information from postmortem examination of on-farm mortalities. Sufficient knowledge of the health status of the herd provides an objective basis for vaccine selection and application, antibiotic selection, and management of facilities and animal flows. Other considerations in internal biosecurity include personnel policies related to exposure to other animals and down times, visitor policies, feed sources, and control of rodents and pests.

Last full review/revision July 2011 by Darryl Ragland, DVM, PhD

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