One of the biggest concerns for farmers is hosting a visitor that might be bringing with them disease pathogens that could potentially be transmitted to the farm animals, and eventually between animals, or bringing a new disease onto the farm through purchased stock.
So, Ted Ferris, a professor in the Michigan State University (MSU) Department of Animal Science, and Dan Grooms, an associate professor in the MSU College of Veterinary Medicine Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences, are working with a group of researchers to identify ways that farmers can protect their farms — and animals — from the spread of infectious diseases.
Ferris and Grooms, in collaboration with their MSU colleagues and industry partners, have developed the “STOP Sign” campaign, a program meant to encourage dairy and beef farmers across Michigan to adopt and enforce biosecurity procedures for their traditional and non-traditional visitors.
The research team provided materials, examples and instructions to 51 dairy farms and 21 beef farms across Michigan to help them develop farm-gate (visitor) biosecurity protocols. Ferris says most of the farms that received the materials had newer production facilities and/or were owned by farmers recognized among their industry peers as early adopters of the newest practices and technologies.
Farmers received suggested procedures for establishing a visitor policy and parameters for identifying a visitor parking area. Other guidelines provided to farmers included how to set up a station for visitors to pull on plastic boots over their footwear before entering the farm, how to create and where to locate sign-in logs that document the countries that visitors may have recently visited, and where to display signs, such as a STOP sign, to limit access to livestock areas. Program participants can decide to implement any or all of the farm gate biosecurity protocols.
“Our goal is to change the way producers view visitors and help to heighten the awareness of general farm biosecurity procedures,” Ferris says. “We want to help farmers realize that visitors, even though they are a regular part of doing business, can be a potential source of disease transmission.”
Ferris adds that strictly enforced biosecurity programs may eventually enhance consumer confidence about the safety of our nation’s food supply.