Protecting the human food supply from infectious agents is a significant concern in this country. But cattle can get sick from their feed, too – particularly forages. University of Wisconsin veterinarian Sheila McGuirk, DVM, PhD, says “biosecurity” refers to the risk of introducing pathogens or toxins that have potential to damage either the health of cattle or the safety and quality of the food coming from them. Among the most commonly recognized organisms that can contaminate forages are Clostridium botulinum (botulism); Clostridium tyrobutyricum (produces butyric acid); Listeria; Neospora; and Salmonella enterica (salmonellosis).

McGuirk says fecal contamination is the primary source of infectious agents in forages, be it from cow manure or other vectors such as pets, rodents, birds or flies. Avoidance of fecal contamination is especially important to controlling Salmonella in forages. In addition to feces, forages also can be contaminated by other feed ingredients, saliva, milk, milk fat film, bedding or blood. Forage fermentation and storage also are key issues for some organisms, particularly Clostridium and Listeria.

To read about controlling specific organisms and general precautions for biosecurity in forages, follow this link.