Raise foreign animal disease awareness on your farm

There are 5 practices you can introduce that will minimize the risk of introducing a foreign animal disease to your dairy or livestock operation.

Recent world events suggest we should raise our awareness for threats to our food system. For livestock producers, this means looking at biosecurity practices and activity for all foreign animal diseases (FAD). One FAD that is of particular concern is Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD). FMDis a highly contagious viral disease of cloven-hoofed animals. It affects cattle, swine, sheep, goats, deer and other ruminants. Livestock owners fear FMD be­cause it spreads rapidly and causes severe economic and consumer confidence losses, as well as interna­tional trade embargoes. A quick response is vitally important to the livestock industries in containing an FMD outbreak and preserving markets.Five things you can do:
Because FADs can have far reaching impacts, it is important for the livestock industries to develop an understanding of these diseases and plans to address them. Things you can do include: developing or enhancing your visitors’ policy, setting up farm gate biosecurity protocols, knowing the signs of FMD and other FADs, increasing surveillance and reviewing information about FMD and what may happen if an outbreak occurred. Such steps would reduce the risk of an FAD occurring and increase the success of a response to an outbreak.  

1. Develop or enhance your visitors’ policy. Visitors can be a route of disease transmission onto your farm. Establishing a visitors’ policy for routine and non-routine visitors can reduce your risk from this route of disease transmission. A visitors’ policy states what is expected from each visitor while on the premises. A typical visitors’ policy might look something like the following; 

The health and welfare of our cattle and the safety of the product they produce is of highest priority to us. To help protect our cattle and you, we have developed a visitor policy

  • Do not proceed onto facilities if you have been in another country in the past 7 days
  • If you are coming from another farm, we ask that you do not come in contact of our animals if your clothes are soiled
  • Sign our visitors log
  • Wear plastic boots or clean and sanitize personal boots
  • Please stay out of areas marked employees only or “Disease Prevention Area” (such as our calf housing)
  • Wash hands prior to departure
  • Enjoy your visit

It is important to communicate expectations and at the same time make visitors feel they are welcome, particularly if you provide tours for the public. There is a need to balance the openness of livestock facilities with appropriate, responsible biosecurity measures to reduce risks, knowing we cannot eliminate all risk.

2. Set up farm gate biosecurity protocols. Farm gate biosecurity is exactly what it implies. Biosecurity and traffic control at the farm gate. These practices will reduce the risk of many diseases, including FMD, from entering the farm. Some of these steps also enhance physical farm security. Consider implementing the following farm gate biosecurity plan.

  • A single driveway as entry point to the farm.
  •  A single designated visitor parking area.
  •  “STOP” signage at driveway entry, indicating that all visitors must check with management before entering premises and animal facilities.
  •  Signs and a “guest book” to screen visitors for recent visits to other farms and countries.
  •  Boot disinfecting station(s), with instructions, plastic boots and a waste disposal container.
  •  A foreign animal disease outbreak traffic control plan 

See website at http://www.cvm.msu.edu/biosecurity for more info on setting up farm gate biosecurity protocols.

3. Know the signs of FMD and other FAD’s in your animals. Because Foot-and-Mouth Disease is such a dangerous and easily transported disease, it becomes important for those in Michigan agriculture to understand the signs in livestock. Should you see any unusual signs in your animals, including the following, contact your veterinarian.

Early signs of FMD include:

  • Drop in feed consumption and milk production of infected animals.
  • Elevated temperatures, especially in young animals.

Followed by:

  • Blisters (vesicles) and erosions/ulcers in the mouth, on the tongue, muzzle and lips, on the teats and around feet.
  • Excessive salivation and saliva that is sticky, foamy and stringy.
  • Lameness with reluctance to move
  • Abortions

4. Increase your surveillance (Be Aware). Surveillance for FADs is essential. Observe your animals daily for early signs of disease, including FMD. Train individuals and employees who work with animals to be observant of signs of illness. If someone notices signs that resemble those of FMD, call your veterinarian immediately OR the MDARD hotline at 517-373-1077 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. or 517-373-0440 after hours OR USDA APHIS at 517-324-5290.  

There are four aspects of an FAD outbreak everyone in the dairy and livestock industries should be aware of:
1. What to expect if a FAD outbreak is suspected in a herd.
2. What to expect once a FAD is confirmed in the first herd.
3. What to do and your role if an FAD outbreak occurs anywhere in North America.
4. Traffic control on your farm during an FAD outbreak.

Then: Self-quarantine the farm and immediately implement strict biosecurity practices to prevent any further spread. Quick action will reduce the impact of any FAD such as FMD on the livestock industry. Train your family, neighbors and employees to watch for individuals who look out of place or are doing something suspicious. Having individuals sign in, wear boots and/or nametags will deter many unwanted individuals from entering or walking around your premises.

5. Review information about FMD and other FAD’s and what would happen if an outbreak occurred. (Be Prepared). Even with this information many farms will need to begin a planning process which leads to a more structured way to view animal disease prevention and risk management. Further resources about a variety of Foreign Animal Diseases are available online from the Center for Food Security and Public Health at Iowa State University and the OIE (The international animal health organization which monitors and coordinates animal health issues worldwide), including a list of countries free of FMD. If your farm is interested in setting up farm gate biosecurity protocols, information can be found at the MSU College of Veterinary Medicine Website, where a wide variety of biosecurity documents can be downloaded, including an FMD wall chart titled Foot and Mouth Disease - Prevention and Preparedness. This chart can be used as a training tool for farm employees and visitors.

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