Q&A: Animal Health Ireland
Boundary fencing should prevent break-outs, break-ins, nose-to-nose contact between herds.
Healthy cattle are one of the most valuable economic assets on Irish livestock farms.
Threats to their health may come from outside and within your farm. As herds expand, farmers need to be even more conscious of implementing bio-exclusion.
Advice on this is available from Animal Health Ireland (www.animalhealthireland.ie).
* What are the most important disease threats from outside my farm?
>>The most important come from neighbouring animals and from animals you add to your herd.
* How can I reduce the disease risk coming in with added animals?
>>Whether bought-in, ‘borrowed’ or returned from marts, shows or contract rearing, animals may appear completely normal but can be silent disease carriers.
The best way to reduce risk is to close your herd, and purchase semen and embryos from reputable suppliers.
Maintaining a closed herd may not always be possible. You don’t have a closed herd if you are buying in or borrowing bulls, exhibiting at shows, sharing cattle handling facilities, returning unsold cattle to your farm, using common grazing or housing, or if you have poor boundary fences.
Check out AHI’s new ‘Purchasing Stock: Reducing Disease Risks’ guide.
* How can I prevent disease from neighbouring animals?
>>Boundary fencing should prevent break-outs, break-ins, nose-to-nose contact between herds, and reduce aerosol spread of infectious agents by livestock. Double fencing may include electric fences; ditches and hedging also reduce the risk of contact. These are also important on out-farms. You may need to rebuild stone walls, block gaps in hedging, or avoid some grazing fields when neighbours’ fields are also being grazed,
* How can I prevent disease from farm visitors?
>>High risk visitors are those who have direct and frequent contact with other farm animals and your cattle, such as vets, other farmers, AI technicians, agricultural consultants, hoof trimmers, scanners, sales personnel and collectors of dead stock.
Keep farm visitors to a minimum, have only one farm entry point.
Use signage to direct farm visitors to a contact point or a mobile number.
Reduce direct contact between visitors and your stock. Provide personal protective clothing for visitors such as gloves, footwear, overboots, overalls/gowns — it’s cheap, easy to enforce.
Provide hand-washing and boot-washing and disinfection facilities for visitors, and make disinfection of protective clothing on entry to the farm a routine practice.
Bring dead stock to the truck, rather than bring vehicles into the yard.
* How can I prevent disease from slurry?
>>Untreated slurry from another farm, farm yard manure, sewage and other bio-wastes are possible sources of disease, as is digestate from anaerobic digestion plants not operating at the required temperature standard.
Organisms such as Johne’s disease bacteria can still be present for many months and sometimes for over a year.
Don’t use imported slurry and other wastes from other farms where possible.
Where possible, restrict slurry spreading to farm-owned machinery.
Discuss with your vet or DVO the option of treating imported slurry with lime to reduce disease threats.
Avoid storage of poultry litter during warm weather. Poultry stacks should be completely covered (as for silage), on dry ground away from water courses, where livestock cannot gain access, and they cannot contaminate livestock feed or bedding.
Poultry litter should not be spread adjacent to water courses, nor should silage be made where poultry litter has been spread.
Farmer using poultry litter as an organic fertiliser should tell their neighbours who have livestock whenever it will be spread, so neighbours can remove animals from the surrounding fields.
Trailing shoe slurry spreaders will minimise disease risk from aerosols.
* How can I prevent disease coming from equipment?
>>Saliva, mucus, blood, nasal secretions, birth fluids, or faeces on equipment can all carry disease. Beware of ear notch taggers, calving equipment, hoof paring equipment, scanning equipment, nose tongs, stomach tubes, gloves, portable crushes, multiple injectors, weighing scales and trailers.
Provide your own animal equipment, don’t lend it out.
Use disposable equipment and dispose of it after use.
Wash and disinfect non-disposable equipment.
Don’t share a crush, race or loading pen with neighbours. If this is unavoidable, disinfect these facilities before and after use.
Install and maintain a vehicle wheel bath at the farm entrance.
Store all equipment safely between uses.
* How can I prevent disease from wildlife, other animals?
>>Infections can come in from wildlife such as badgers (TB), crows/pigeons/seagulls (salmonellosis), cats (toxoplasmosis), deer (TB), dogs and foxes (neosporosis), goats (TB), rats (leptospira) and midges (Schmallenberg).
Wildlife and vermin are attracted into farmyards by easy access to feedstuffs.
In addition, they may bring diseased material in, like chicken carcasses (botulism) or aborted foetuses.
Operate a vermin/rodent control programme.
Reduce access to feed and animal wastes, and maintain wildlife-proof farm boundaries. Badger-proof fencing must be buried at least 0.6m; deer-proof fencing must be at least 2.5m high.
* How can I prevent disease from biological materials?
>>Colostrum, embryos, semen, unregulated vaccines or whole milk bring potential disease risks. Do not ‘borrow’ and feed colostrum or whole milk from a neighbour.
Purchase semen and embryos from reputable suppliers.
Ensure your vet uses new syringes and needles, or keep your own supply. Only use properly licensed, legal medicines, purchased from licensed suppliers.
If considering using autogenous vaccines (against warts, for example) discuss it with your vet.
* How can I prevent disease from the environment?
>>Waterways, shared grazing, housing facilities, yards or crushes can be disease sources. Fence off waterways and lakes, prevent stock access to flooded land.
Don’t use shared handling facilities or housing.
* How can I prevent exotic diseases (diseases not currently in the country).
>>Most exotic diseases are highly infectious so it is important to act quickly if you are suspicious of a case.
Choose not to buy imported cattle. If buying imported cattle, ensure they have been fully tested.
Observe a quarantine period of at least four weeks.
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