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Released: May 15, 2003

K-State Vet: Livestock Owners Need Biosecurity Plan

MANHATTAN, Kan. – The term may puzzle some, but in its simplest translation, biosecurity in farm country is just good business.

"In past years, it was called animal husbandry," says Kansas State University veterinarian Larry Hollis. "But since Sept. 11, 2001, some of those things that were good management practices now have an [additional] reason to be instituted."

Hollis, who specializes in cattle health management for K-State Research and Extension, works with the state’s producers, helping them with information to maintain the health of their livestock. News reports and government officials often characterize agriculture as a "soft target" for a bio-terrorist attack, noting the relative ease of introducing disease to field crops or livestock herds.

June is National Dairy Month
Biosecurity Tips for Dairies

MANHATTAN, Kan. – America’s dairymen face some special challenges in protecting cattle from diseases that threaten their health and ability to produce milk.

Veterinarian Larry Hollis, who specializes in cattle health management for Kansas State University Research and Extension, says diseases common to the U.S. dairy industry include mycoplasma mastitis, Johne’s Disease and bovine leukosis.

Those diseases aren’t a threat to human health, nor are they as devastating as mad cow disease or foot-and-mouth disease. But they can cause death, and do cause production losses.

Dairies planning to host visitors during National Dairy Month in June should consider these safety steps, provided by K-State Research and Extension and the Wisconsin Dairy Board.

* Insist that visitors wear clean clothes, especially if they have visited other farms earlier in the day.

* Install a two-step foot bath; one area with a brush and water to scrape dirt off shoes, and a wet mat with disinfectant that people step onto when they enter a room.

* Do not let visitors on your farm if they’ve recently visited a farm in another country.

* Post signs that indicate parking areas, and areas where cars can drive.

* Do not allow visitors to have direct contact with animals.

That’s reason enough for farmers to make a plan to protect their businesses, Hollis says.

"This is practical stuff, really," he said. "When we talk about a biosecurity plan for a farm, we’re talking about writing down things that are site-specific. In other words, here’s what we do at our place to keep disease out, and what we do in case something happens. The plan is custom-tailored to that operation."

Biosecurity certainly covers a farmer’s and the federal government’s response to such economically-devastating diseases as foot-and-mouth disease and mad cow disease. But, using an example in the dairy industry, it also covers a dairyman’s plan for preventing or treating more common and economically important diseases such as bovine leukosis, mycoplasma mastitis or Johne’s Disease.

"I don’t want to go off scaring people....The thing that everybody needs to do is be vigilant with their own operation," Hollis said.

"Here’s what I tell people: If a disease is brought in and wiped out 30 percent of the herd, would that affect your livelihood? In other words, are you emotionally or financially tied to those animals? If the answer is ‘yes,’ then I think you need a biosecurity plan."

In the United States, there are two types of biosecurity, Hollis says: "One is what you do in your own operation, and the other is what our government is doing to prevent the introduction of diseases into our country. What you do to help local biosecurity has a carryover effect for foreign animal disease biosecurity."

Hollis recommends that farmers contact their local Extension agent for help in developing specific steps. He also gives the following recommendations for all livestock producers:

* Test all new animals, depending on potential diseases of concern. Hollis suggests keeping them quarantined – if possible, at another site – until test results are known.

* Monitor the movement of people. Ask visitors – including veterinarians, feed truck drivers, milk truck drivers, milking service people and others – where they’ve been. For example, if they’ve been on a farm overseas in the past five days, you shouldn’t let them on your property. Hollis says dairies should provide a two-step foot bath, including an area with brush and water (to scrape off dirt) and a wet mat with disinfectant that people step onto when they enter a room. Visitors should wear clean clothes.

* Limit areas where vehicles may go. Post signs for special parking areas, and don’t let vehicles cross paths where animals travel, Hollis said. Some farms even install "tire baths" for vehicles entering the property.

"If you cover the risk of unintentional introduction of a disease, it has the dual benefit of covering the intentional introduction," Hollis said, though noting that higher-security steps could include chain link fence with razor wire; buffer zones between fences and livestock; or a policy that requires all people to "shower in-shower out" whenever making contact with livestock.

"Farmers need to ask, ‘What makes sense for me?’" Hollis said.


K-State Research and Extension is a short name for the Kansas State University Agricultural Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Service, a program designed to generate and distribute useful knowledge for the well-being of Kansans. Supported by county, state, federal and private funds, the program has county Extension offices, experiment fields, area Extension offices and regional research centers statewide. Its headquarters is on the K-State campus, Manhattan.

Story by:
Pat Melgares, News Coordinator
K-State Research& Extension News

Additional Information:
Larry Hollis is at 785-532-1246