Manure management practices in dairy herds to control disease

Implementing biosecurity practices can help prevent the spread of HPAI.

Red tractor pulling red manure spreader that is casting manure on a green and brown field.
Applying dairy manure on a field. Photo by M. Charles Gould, Michigan State University Extension.

Manure application will soon be in full swing across Michigan. This is a good time to reflect on biosecurity practices to prevent the spread of diseases found in manure, especially now that highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) has been confirmed in dairy cattle in Michigan. It is known that infected cattle shed HPAI in milk. Other secretions such as saliva, respiratory droplets and feces are considered plausible sources of infection though have not yet been proven. These may serve as a source of virus for other cattle. At this time there are many unknowns, so farms and manure application firms should have in place or work to develop and implement a robust biosecurity plan. State Veterinarian Dr. Nora Wineland, DVM, has stated that biosecurity is the best line of defense against spreading HPAI. From a manure management standpoint, implementing the following biosecurity practices will help protect your herd from contracting and spreading disease organisms.

Before Manure is Applied

Note the location of adjacent livestock farms, especially poultry, when applying manure to fields.  Contact those neighboring farms to allow them time to adjust their biosecurity protocols. Plan dedicated routes of travel when moving manure and communicate with those using similar routes for their farm’s manure application. If spreading infected manure, avoid roadways commonly used by other livestock operations and use fields away from main roadways and livestock areas. Plan ahead and have an open dialogue with neighboring livestock farms regarding disease status.

Manure Application

Have dedicated equipment, applicator clothing and footwear when completing manure transfer and application. Wear different clothing and boots between manure application sites or utilize disposable coveralls and booties where applicable.

Create designated footpaths and vehicle routes on the premises that diminish crossover between employees and visitors entering the facilities and those responsible for manure application and transport.

Cleaning and Disinfecting Manure Application Equipment

Institute proper cleaning and disinfection protocols for manure application equipment. This means removing organic material before applying an appropriate sanitizer or disinfectant. Influenza virus is highly susceptible to disinfectants. Clean, then disinfect manure equipment inside and out when moving between manure sources, different livestock sites or fields. If there is a concern of disease spread from infectious manure, have tire washing and disinfecting stations established at all possible points of entry.


Keep complete records of dates of manure agitation, removal, locations visited and fields where manure was applied. This is important information for tracking disease spread and biosecurity breaches.

Commercial Manure Applicators

Commercial manure applicators should visit with their contracted operations to make sure that they are following the proper site entry protocols.

Biosecurity Plans, Practices and Resources

Michigan State University Extension experts recommend that dairy and beef producers revisit their biosecurity plans and tighten practices to help decrease the risk of disease outbreaks and illness. Example biosecurity plans, practices and resources for cattle can be found by visiting the Secure Milk Supply or the Beef Quality Assurance websites. The Michigan Manure Hauler Certification Program provides educational programs to manure applicators to prevent manure application problems before they occur, including developing and implementing biosecurity practices that reduce the risk of spreading diseases.

Questions about cattle biosecurity can be directed to MSU Extension educators Jerad JaborekPhil Durst and Cora Okkema. Media questions should be directed to Beth Stuever, MSU Extension director of public affairs. 

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