Biosecurity Breach Are dairies too complacent?

November 9, 2008 06:00 PM
Even though 45% of midsized herds and 62% of large herds bring in new cattle each year, only 20% quarantine animals before introduction.

After the horror of Sept. 11 and the airing of videos of hundreds of burning cattle carcasses in the wake of England's FMD outbreak, U.S. dairy producers responded with tightened biosecurity around their facilities.

Warning signs and perimeter fences went up. Visitors were screened, logged in and required to wear clean clothes and disposable boots.

But with few incidents occurring and other concerns perceived as more pressing, animal health officials now worry that dairy producers are falling into complacency. "Have we backslid on biosecurity?” wonders Ken Olson of K.E. Consulting.

Recent survey data from USDA's 2007 National Animal Health Monitoring System suggests there is reason for Olson to worry.

Nearly 45% of midsized herds (100 to 499 cows) and 62% of large herds (500-plus) continue to bring animals onto their operations each year. Only 20% of operations are quarantining animals, with bred heifers quarantined for just three weeks and lactating cows for two.

Both midsized and large herds are requiring fewer vaccinations, though much of the drop-off is probably attributable to the sharp decline in brucellosis vaccination. Nevertheless, one-third of midsize and large dairies require no vaccination of any kind.

Olson urges producers to revisit their biosecurity plans:
  • Work with your veterinarian to tailor your plan to your operation.
  • Identify the diseases that pose the greatest risk to your dairy.
  • Focus on what can go wrong; then work to prevent it.
  • Monitor the effort so that control measures are consistently applied.

Bonus content:

  • Follow this link to go to the Healthy Farms Web site designed to help farm owners and employees assess risks to farm biosecurity and adopt appropriate management practices to reduce these risks, and enhance their understanding of high-risk diseases and emergency procedures.
  • Click here for USDA''s Animal Health Monitoring & Surveillance Web site.
  • Follow this link to the National Center for Food Protection and Defense.
  • Founded in April 2004 as a Department of Homeland Security Center of Excellence, the FAZD Center develops products to protect the United States from the introduction of high-consequence foreign animal and zoonotic diseases, or "FAZDs" (pronounced FAZ-dees). Click here to learn more.
  • This past April, the International Symposium on Agroterrorism (ISA) presented information on how to protect the food supply worldwide while illustrating the importance of a coordinated effort. You can read more from this symposium at
  • Click here for Spanish version.

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