THE MERCK VETERINARY MANUAL
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Principles of Biosecurity

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An effective biosecurity program identifies risks and addresses those risks through effective management to minimize potential threats to animal health and welfare.

Farm management practices that promote animal health and minimize the threat of pathogen introduction and transmission start with maintaining a closed herd when possible. Many times, pathogens enter herds through addition of animals from external sources. Maintaining a closed herd effectively mitigates the possibility of pathogen introduction from animal additions.

When a closed herd is not possible, animals destined for addition should be tested, isolated, and further tested for disease-causing pathogens and then vaccinated and/or treated accordingly during the isolation period. This approach is critical for creating effective barriers to pathogen introduction and for maintaining a healthy herd when animals are eventually added from external sources.

Access to the production facility should be restricted to employees and necessary service personnel. Pathogens can be introduced and transmitted via clothing, inanimate objects, and vehicles. Therefore, policies addressing employee activities on and off the farm are critical. In addition, policies that address access of nonemployees and service personnel are equally important to reduce the risk of pathogen introduction, because these individuals may visit other farms and have contact with other animals.

Contact of herd animals with wildlife and domestic species of questionable health status should be prevented because such exposure is a direct threat to animal health and farm biosecurity. Unfortunately, this is difficult to control in some livestock operations such as when beef cattle and deer graze common areas and have unintentional contact. Pets should be restricted from entering animal housing areas unless they are used for purposes of protection or predator control. Any biosecurity program should include control measures for rodents and insects because they can harbor and transmit disease-causing pathogens.

Feed and water should be free of contamination when possible. Contamination of feed and water sources can pose a challenge to farm biosecurity. Feedstuffs, regardless of source, may be contaminated during preparation or storage. Maintaining hygienic conditions in the feed mill and controlling pests in feed storage areas will help prevent contamination of both feed ingredients and complete feeds. Periodic analysis of the farm water supply provides valuable information relative to water quality and possible infectious challenges.

The health status of the herd should be determined and monitored regularly. This is critical when considering internal bio-security and formulating disease control measures. The diseases monitored and the frequency of monitoring should be based on the health-related goals of the farm and input from the herd veterinarian as to the diseases of greatest significance to the farm.

A disease control program should be formulated and then recognized and implemented by all affiliated with the farm. Preventing the entry of pathogens and suppressing the activity of existing pathogens requires effort and cooperation by all on the farm.

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

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