Here are five ways to reduce the spread of what we cannot see.
- Practice biosecurity between farms. Whether you visit another farm or someone comes on your farm after being on another, boots and coveralls should be clean and sanitized, tires should be free from manure and any materials (ie. feed) should be free of manure. Let’s face it; the carelessness of people, including professionals, leads to transfer of pathogens between farms.
- Practice biosecurity within your farm. Keeping different groups of animals separated is the best chance we have to keep pathogens from being transferred between groups. Protect calves from exposure to pathogens shed from cows. Clean boots and clothes, clean equipment and feed are key when working with calves. Isolation and separation from older animals need to be maintained. Toth found a higher prevalence of pathogens in maternity pen bedding than in calf bedding. Removing calves quickly from the maternity pen reduces the risk of infection.
- Practice good hygiene on farms. In the Toth study, 73 percent of the stored manure samples were positive for at least one of the five target pathogens and half of the fresh manure samples were positive. Cleanliness helps reduce exposure to pathogens.
- Protect animals. Vaccination is an important tool through which to increase the protection of animals, but it is not a perfect tool. The vaccine must be handled well, administered to animals that will respond and in some cases boostered to strengthen the immune response. As important as vaccination is, it only covers specific pathogens. In addition, we need to feed four quarts of colostrum within two hours of birth, pasteurize milk for calves, reduce stresses, reduce overcrowding and isolate new arrivals.
- Personal hygiene. Some of the diseases that cattle can carry can also infect people. It is important that as you and employees who work on the farm practice good personal hygiene. Healthy employees are critical to farm function. Consider providing employees with both training about biohazards and with tools (ie. handwashing stations, disposable gloves, coveralls, etc.) that actually make a difference in the spread of disease agents.
Even though we cannot see the pathogens that cause disease on farms, we need to implement ways to reduce disease risk by considering how diseases may be spread and consistently taking steps to protect cattle. This must be the concern of everyone working on and for the dairy. Let’s open our eyes to the work that needs to be done.