How you can reduce biosecurity risks in 4-H projects: Part 1

Biosecurity related to 4-H projects is a matter of high priority. Taking simple precautions will protect animals, members and consumers.

A graphic that has a pig and the MSU Extension wordmark. It says Biosecurity practices: protect your animals from disease. There are also bullet points that say wear clean clothing and footwear while caring for animals, regularly clean and disinfect tools and equipment used on the farm, limit visitors to your farm, separate new animals for 14 days and monitor for symptoms of illness, care for new, separated or sick animals last.

National and state agencies have identified biosecurity related to animal agriculture as a high priority. The United States Department of Agriculture has a long-term goal of safeguarding the animal production industry from accidental outbreaks of animal disease. Disease control and surveillance and food system security are high priorities in ensuring that people and animals are protected.

According to Michigan State University Extension, 4-H animal exhibitors can do their part to help safeguard the animal production industry by paying particular attention to their management, both on their own farms and during exhibition. Over a series of articles, MSU Extension will provide an overview of current 4-H animal project trends, animal housing, animal pens, wash racks, judging areas and visitor interactions to explore the potential risks and how those risks can be reduced.

A study conducted by the University of California, Assessment of Bio-Security Risks Associated with 4-H Animal Science Exhibition Practices in California, collected data and suggested strategies that 4-H members can use to mitigate potential risks and was published in the Journal of Extension. In Michigan, we can assume that there are similar practices occurring within 4-H programs, use the data and implement the recommendations easily.

In California, most 4-H animal projects are kept as part of backyard farms and various species are present. California youth reported that they traveled with their project animal to an average of two club project meetings, where mixing with other animals occurred, and an average of 2.5 fairs, shows and exhibitions outside of their home county.

Animals such as these that are exhibited at public venues can illustrate some of the practices and concerns associated with the risk of disease outbreaks. Because disease outbreaks could have profound impacts on the agricultural economy, it is important that issues related to biosecurity within 4-H programs are addressed. In recent years, highly pathogenic avian influenza has produced effects on the country’s poultry industry – making now the time to ensure you are doing everything possible to keep your animals safe from the spread of disease. 

4-H members, volunteers and staff should have an understanding of biosecurity practices for the purpose of developing and providing relevant educational resources, programs and procedures to address potential risks. Over a series of articles, proper everyday biosecurity practices will be examined to help you build your knowledge and skill in your role in helping stop the spread of diseases. We will explore:

These easy to follow, everyday practices will help reduce the spread of pathogens among our animal communities.

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