How you can reduce biosecurity risks in 4-H projects: Part 7

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

A picture of a duck behind a fence. Text that says 4-H project biosecurity tip: keep animals new to the farm away from others.

Michigan State University Extension continues a series about national and state agencies identifying 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.

As mentioned in part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6, 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. This article will continue to provide an overview, focusing on practices 4-H’ers can implement at home to prevent the spread of disease.

In addition to previously outlined tips, another important biosecurity practice is to isolate animals that are new to your farm or returning from an exhibition or show for a minimum of 14 days. These animals have been exposed to other animals at a different location, therefore, may be carrying disease and viruses that your home herd or flock does not have. This 14-day minimum isolation time will allow time for your animal to show symptoms of any virus or disease they may have contracted.

Although this may be challenging with the resources that you have available to you, think about how you can best separate animals and how disease transmission occurs. First, we know that pathogens can spread through indirect means; sneezing, coughing and via hands and clothing. Do your best to keep animals separated enough that they are not exposed to nasal discharge from sneezing or coughing. Unfortunately, pathogens can also be spread through the air. When isolating animals, use your best judgement within the facilities you have to minimize the risks. In addition, it is recommended to care for your home herd or flock first, before caring for your new or traveling animals, so you don't transfer pathogens on your hands or clothes.

If you have purchased or received new animals to your farm, it is valuable to learn the history of the new animals. Ask questions about the management practices and herd health of the farm you are purchasing from, and know what vaccinations animals on the farm have received. Although often overlooked, this is important to know as it will help evaluate any potential health issues that your new animal may develop after you get it to your farm. Remember, stress weakens the immune system of animals and a change in environment and location can potentially be stressful for your new animal. As a result, it may be more likely to show signs of sickness. If you know its history, you will be better prepared to work with your veterinarian to identify and treat any illness.

The next article in this series will highlight the importance and practice of cleaning and disinfecting equipment that you use with your animals. Also look for the last article in the series: Part 9: Limiting exposure to your animals.

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