Biosecurity Basics to Prevent the Spread of Disease

March 1, 2023

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This session has held as part of Animal Agriculture track during the 2023 MI Ag Ideas to Grow With virtual conference. This virtual conference held February 27-March 10, 2023, is a two-week program encompassing many aspects of the agricultural industry and offering a full array of educational sessions for farmers and homeowners interested in food production and other agricultural endeavors. Sessions were recorded and can be found online at

Video Transcript

I am specifically a swine educator, so I only deal with swine. I deal with everything in-between the show pig people, the people who have two or three heritage breeds to the big producers in the state. I've worked here for about four-and-a-half years. I'm not from Michigan. I worked with Smithfield Foods, some of the big name once during my college years too. But I grew up on a family farm. So I understand how difficult it is and how fun and challenging at all is to own livestock into the biosecurity aware at the same time, it's a good challenge to have every once in a while. My name is Katie ocher. I have been with Michigan State University Extension for 18 years, a couple of different capacities within four h and now within the community food and environment institutes. And I mainly work with the zoonotic diseases and disease mitigation biosecurity for small and medium-sized farms plus some basic management things like that. I'm really happy that you're here today. We've got a great presentation for you. So biosecurity can be a pretty terrifying word if you really aren't familiar with what the term is. The first thing to know is that security is really simply just a step, a set of practices and measures that we take to decrease our risk of disease on our farms. So we're trying to prevent the introduction of disease and infection. Commonly we call those things pathogens from coming into our barns and affecting our lives stack. So these things can refer to how we limit the spread of illness within the farm. If a foreign premise has not been exposed to a certain pathogen, biosecurity practices can help to protect that hurt from being exposed. And in doing that, we're going to minimize the impact that those pathogens might have. The potential for whatever that pathogen is to become endemic. Creating a biosecurity plan for your farm and implementing it can help you reduce and minimize the impact of risks from pathogens that can have detrimental effects on the animals on your farm. These plans include personal hygiene practices, practices that you take within your facilities, with your equipment, with your animals, all of those things that will help you minimize risk. There's no one size fits all approach to biosecurity. Especially on the small and medium-sized farms. We're all working with different facilities. Some may be brand new, some may be barns that we that have been built for 50 years that were kinda retrofitting or making fit our needs. We may have some financial constraints and also logistical constraints. Sometimes doing biosecurity practices does require some pretty specific things in terms of facilities and time and financial means. So we want to look at things very practically, because if that's not practical, it won't be implemented and it won't be easy to implement. Throughout this presentation, we will teach you about those practices that you can easily implement no matter what the size or scope of your farm is. You can think of biosecurity in different levels. When I teach, I always teach good, better, best, good as doing something and implementing a couple steps, maybe one or two steps, and practices that easily fit into your routine. Better is implementing several of the principles that may be a little less convenient and might take you more time. It might cost you a little bit more money. You might have to rearrange some of your facilities. But you're helping, you're, you're helping to reduce that risk. And then best of course, is creating a rigorous and stringent plan that is comprehensive and implement, that implements a full plan for reducing risk. Just remember that doing something is better than doing nothing. And there's no one action or no one practice that is going to fully protect your animals or yourself from disease. It's the culmination and the combination of different practices that make a difference. And you have to decide what practices you can implement in your specific facility that fits within your time and your resource budget. Alright? So thinking about biosecurity, the whole point of that is to maintain good health status. And what comes to my mind of health status is your veterinarian? In my line of work and I know Katie is familiar with this term as well. It's called a VSEPR, so it's a veterinary client patient relationship. The veterinarian is obviously the vet that you're working with. The client is yourself for the farm owner. And the patient is actually going to be your animals or animal that you're inquiring about with your vet. So the veterinarian responsibilities is obviously to provide medical care and to keep those health records and to advise you on treatments and provide emergency care. While on the other hand, the animal owner's responsibilities is to actually use and utilize the veterinarian has experienced to diagnose the animals, follow the recommendations and instructions per the veterinarians advice and to ask questions and to understand what the veterinarian is trying to work with you on to establish VSEPR. It's more central to have an in-person. You cannot establish a good relationship via email or text or even over the phone. That really has to see what animals you're working with, see their health status, you how the barn in the facility are set up and how you guys handle with those animals. After that, I would say at least twice a year. Have that bet. You speak about the health concerns, the how the barn and the animals are being raised. And if you see any abnormalities, it's a phone call is free. All else fails, you can at least get a call back and maybe all you need to do is adjust some biosecurity practices so you don't have to have that farm call, farm called visit. But at the end of the day, or animals or a good priority. And we want them to have good health care for not only if you're showing or if you're just raising them for life, for meat. But just because we're not in it for the money we're in it to have a good relationship with their animals. And when we don't feel good, we go to the Dr. and it should be held to the same practices for our animals as well. Next slide. So some other basic disinfectants supplies and disinfect it usually is for in-between turns, I call them we call them turns into swine industry. It's between your two different herds are current groups that you used if you move them into between different buildings or if you do more show pigs are feeder pigs and you have four or five and then you send them off and you get four or five more. You want to literally clean everything, everything you think they've touched and everything you don't even know that they've touched. Because whatever they had they can prop it will stay on wood, concrete, plastic, viruses and bacteria, are nasty things, and some naive herds will react very badly to them. A good cleanser would be either additional dishsoap for your plastic materials. You can go outside and wash them or commercial cleanser. So the big Clorox Bleach stuff, I know swine the swine industry is has many of them that they rotate through. But a good one, good homemade one that I just remember off the top of my head is four teaspoons of bleach for 32 ounce spray and just fill the rest with water. It's really that easy. You also can use dishsoap, Lysol wipes. And that's gonna be more for your equipment and your hand and the stuff your hands to touch. And sometimes I even use it on my rubber boots and stuff like that when I go through different farms, scrub brushes, hand sanitizer, all those things. Simple overlooked stuff, things that we use during flu season or during COVID. All can work in some form or another into your facility as well. Because again, Health at the end of the day is what we're looking for in our animals. So it doesn't have to be a big elaborate thing. Dish soap, hand sanitizer, Lysol wipes. That would be the good part of Katie's little good, better, best plan. So personal practices again, wash your hands before and after caring for your animals, especially if you're going to go to fair or livestock show, every time you go in and out. We don't know what you've touched that other people have touched and what they've touched before and after that. Don't eat and drink in the barn. And again, you're bringing in kitchen appliances from other people's households and family gatherings that probably have been around other barns at some point and those barns are in themselves have not been used more than once or twice a year. So again, higher hygiene practices are better for animals, especially for fair season because we've all seen what swine influenza and other things like that can do to animals. I know cattle are a lot more hardier than pigs when it comes to fairs, but still you want your pigs and your cattle, and your dairy and your poultry to be healthy and good on Show day, where only one pair of shoes. I call them my barn boots. I own a horse. They're  my barn boots. They stay in my truck. I try to keep them in a plastic baggie, change out the bag every time. Then again, barn clothes. I know we all get lax. We go we go out. We go to the barn. Somebody else calls us. We go out to their barn with the same clothes on and we just cross contaminated. We've given whatever particles that were on us, our shoes, our hands our boots our clothes to their farm and vice versa. It's a lot more strenuous then you would think, but again, I tell a lot of smaller farmers do what you would do during flu season for your animals. Yeah, that's a great point, Casey. I'm doing what we do to protect our own health will also help us protect our animal health. And it's okay to make sure that you're scrubbing the bottoms of bottoms of your shoes and things like that, but things that you don't want to do is wear those clothes and shoes out too the farm store or things like that because there's a lot of opportunities for cross contamination and we don't even know it because humans are really good vectors for pathogens. So just keep that in mind as you're working with your animals and everything that you do on your farm is able to be transmitted to somebody else's. So always a good practice to get into. Again, looking more into the equipment and facilities regularly clean and disinfect your things you don't normally think about that are always just there, your bucket so you feed and water and if you have specific feeders I use trying to clean those out as much as you can. Scales if you use those shoots stands, alleyways, gates on your grooming equipment, pinning if you're available if it's available to concrete surfaces, absorb bleach very well. Gating again, you can use Lysol wipes, bleach spray. There is so many things that you actually sit there and think about. Think through what an animal or you touch every day. Everything can be cleaned in some aspect and it should be. So again, you don't have to pay for the vet to come out and you don't have to worry about your animals losing their rate of gain, or they don't feel well, or that you have to miss the show because they don't feel well. All right, so the next piece in biosecurity is making sure that we're managing our animals appropriately. First and foremost is official identification is really an important part of record-keeping on our farms. Official identification also allows the ability for there to be traced back. So if there's bound to be a disease once your animal is off your farm, that that animal can then be traced back through that official ID system so that There's an idea of any place that, that pathogen may have spread. So in the case of like a foreign animal disease or something like that, official identification is absolutely essential. Michigan has some requirements that animals must have that proper identification in order to move off the premises that they live on. So if you think about RFID tags for cattle, scrapie identification for sheep and goats, the NEUS tags for hogs. Each species has a different requirement. And if you have any questions about what those requirements are, be sure to contact MDARD and they will help you make sure that you're compliant with that identification. Your official identification can also help you keep health records on your herd or your flock. Records can should consist of basic information about the animals, their official ID number. If you have their date of birth, their sex. Other critical items that you should keep records on is any medical treatments that those animals have, whether it's vaccines, deworming, or any illness that they may have exhibited. You'll want to note that in there, in there basically chart records so that you can go back and kind of see trends. You can see if particular animals have been symptomatic of anything. You can know when you dewormed have so that you can create those consistent schedules. There's a lot of great reasons to keep really good records on health. The second set of records that you should keep is animal movements. So knowing where your animals have been, especially if you're doing some showing or taking your animals off, off the farm and back on the farm. You want to keep some really detailed records of where you go because you never know if where you took your animal could have had an outbreak. If it's horses, it can be strangles, or influenza or anything like that. If it's hogs, swine influenza, avian influenza with poultry, there's a whole multitude of diseases that if we're taking our animals out and off of our premises, combining them with animals from other premises in small spaces, usually where there's opportunity for either people to cross handle them or nose to nose contact. There's lots of opportunity for pathogens spread in those scenarios. So keeping those Movement Records is really important so that if there is a notification that swine influenza was was discovered at this, There's a pig with swine influenza that was at this show this weekend. You'll know if you were there and you can then be a little bit more vigilant to watch your animals for any signs and symptoms and be able to identify it much quicker. The other part of the animal management that I think becomes second nature as we progress in our livestock ownership is that daily observation piece. So it becomes second nature once you get in the habit of evaluating your animals on a daily basis while you're out doing chores, looking at body condition, looking at body posture, watching for signs of any nasal discharge, discharge, diarrhea. If they just don't look right, you know what the baseline of those animals health is from just observing them every day so that you can quickly pick up when something might be off. That also will help you be able to access treatments much quicker. Isolate animals if they are symptomatic so that whatever they have doesn't spread to the rest of the herd or flat. Just being able to implement some of those strategies in very quickly will help you mitigate disease spread. If you should have some pathogen on your, on your farm. If you notice that you have animals with any kind of symptoms, diarrhea, lethargic, they go off feed, they won't drink. They are not moving normally. Their body posture isn't normal. You really need to separate or isolate those animals depending on what your facilities are, will depend on what you can do. You may or may not have an area where you can completely separate those animals so that the risk of contamination on air particles, maybe you have a separate barn so that air movement isn't spreading pathogen. You may have that ability. You also may not have that ability. And the best you can do is put up a physical barrier between animals with gates where they may still have a common water source. They may be able to have those snows contact. The most important thing is trying to eliminate as many points of contact between sick animals and, and healthy animals as possible because that's going to help slow or stop disease spread. Any animals that are symptomatic. You want to keep away from the rest of your flock or herd for a minimum of two weeks, 14 days. Once you get them treated, you've worked with your veterinarian, they're no longer symptomatic. Give them that downtime to really get that pathogen, virus or bacteria or whatever it is out of their system before re-incorporate, bring them into their established herd. When you have animals that are isolated or separated from the rest of the herd, make sure that you care for those animals last, because like I said before, humans are really good vectors for disease. So if we're treating our sick animals first, we then could be, no matter what, if we got them isolated, we then could be the vector to transmit bacteria and pathogen virus to the established animals that are healthy. So those are some things that you really want to think about. When you think about good, better, best. Look at your facilities and see what is feasible for you to do. And that's the biggest part is create as much distance and care for those sick animals last. In the same vein. When you get new animals or you're incorporating some new animals on your farm, you want to make sure that they're isolated and more separated from your established herd or flock for at least 14 days. That way, moving and having a new environment is really stressful. When animals are stressed, they're more likely to start. Their immune system is compromised, so they're more likely to exhibit symptoms of illness, go off feed, all of those things. So if you've got them separated, they're easier to monitor because they're not intermingled with everybody else. So you can monitor them much, much more easily. And you can also. Get to know those animals normal behaviors outside of the existing flock or herd. Again when you're doing chores, care for those new animals after your established herd or flock. Then after two weeks, go ahead and start to incorporate those those animals into your existing herd. In whatever methodology you decide to do. That is minimizing stress. Because again, stress will create opportunity for immune system suppression and animals to get sick. So think about how you're introducing those animals into your established flocks as well and herds as well. Another factor that can impact disease is the presence of wildlife. Like rodents, mice, rats, possums, raccoons. Those are all pretty common wildlife animals in Michigan that are pretty populated throughout the state. And all of those critters like to find their way into our barns because they offer good housing that's generally safe from other predators. There's oftentimes food sources that they can be uninterrupted getting, munching on some spilled grain. Hey, anything that's leftover cat food, all of those things. So there's some strategies that you can implement in your barn, like keep all of your feed and feed stuffs in a sealed container. That way. Animals can't knock the tops off. I think of the Oscar that Grouch  trash cans, that, that top is really easy to get off. So an animal could very easily get that top off and get into the feed. And that creates opportunity for disease transmission between whatever that wild animals carrying to your flock or herd. Next. Always make sure that if you do spill feed, clean it up because there's, there's no better treat for mice and rats than those little crumbles of spilled feed. They'll always take advantage of that, especially as the weather turns and they're looking for warm places to go. Keep your bagged feed and your hay off the ground. That not only will prevent molding, but it also will help if you've got any kind of flooding. I mean, I know this this week has been really hard. My barn flooded. So some of those things, just keeping that stuff off the ground is a good practice to get into. Also, check your environment. Often. Look at corners, walls, cracks in the floors, bottoms of doors, any place that it would be really easy for those, those larger animals, raccoons, possums, woodchucks, all of those to get in. And if you can shore up some of those places in your barn, you'll be more likely to be able to keep keep those animals out. All right. At one point or another, you're going to most likely be transporting your livestock and animals on and off of your farm in it. Just as important as your environment and where they live every day is how their transport is as well. Is your trailer clean? I know a lot of people in the winter put their trailers in a barn and they forget the check the inlet state, forget to close up the slats or the windows and then they get it out and they immediately put animals in there, not even realizing that there could be bugs, rodents, flies. I've seen mice, raccoons and some before. That's just something to be very cautious of. Get it out, clean it again, make sure there's nothing else hiding in there that you did not know was there before then? Be whether conscious, but typically you, most bigger livestock have a higher resting body temperature than you. So what you perceive as cold in the '50s is pretty nice out there and for horses and cattle. So don't go off your temperature, go off the temperature of your livestock. So smaller animals like goats, even chickens, they are going to want most of that closed but leave a good infiltration system so they can get some fresh air and cleaner through there. Again, it's really important to remove all the bedding and manure that can obviously carry diseases and odor. Just a few caveats for bedding, straw will retain heat, but it's a lot easier to clean up. Shavings, little bit harder to clean up, but they are not as well known for the respiratory cleanliness. Hey Katie, there we go. Use a broom or a wire brush to really get into those corners when you're changing out material. Because you never know where they urinate or poop. Animals are very clever when it comes to that stuff. Wash with a cleanser or you can go to your local car wash or you can go and use a spray, your own power wash. I go through I wash it and rinse it down and then I go in with some sort of bleach or cleaner of some sort, you can use dishsoap. It's that simple. You can use one of those nozzles with the bottle dispenser on there and then wash it again. Use Lysol wipes on the small nooks and crannies of things. And then for your equipment that you use for trailering, you can actually bleach that stuff and then leave it out in the sun, will actually clean and disinfect that as well as it dries. But yeah, it's something commonly overlooked. We have the trailer ready to go with straws already in it. It's been in there for awhile. And then we wonder why our animals don't feel good a couple of days after moving them. It's something that's very often overlooked and very easy to fix. Next slide. Alright. Same goes for farm visitors as for when you guys are visiting other farms, people who come onto your farm, I have no problem asking them to bring their own clothes and choose different ones than what they would use for their own animals if they have any, if they don't have any. Even dogs and cats can carry diseases on to some other animals. Wash your hands. Before and after handling animals. It's probably safer if they don't even handle them at all. Especially right now. Be very cautious with your poultry and other people messing with them. Avian influenza, if you haven't heard, is a little bit on the rise right now. Pigs, swine influenza will be knocking on their door soon during the summer seasons. And it's not fun to have either of those on your facilities due to negligence of somebody else coming in and petting your animal Just because they did not properly cleaned their shoes and they're clothes and their hands before they came on. It's your livelihood, It's your animal's health at risk. I have no problem asking people to wash your hands, don't touch. Please change your shoes or put plastic bags over your shoes. If you want to go into the barn, they didn't change them out. Or if they can fit into your own clothes, let them borrow a pair of your clothes if they really, really want to go out and see your livestock. Forgetting to  unmute myself. So just to recap, but remember when you are practicing biosecurity and you're implementing, thinking about the practices that you want to implement. Think about good, better, best. What do you have the facilities to do? What do you have the time to do? What do you have the resources to do? What are some things that you may need to add? Do you need to get some boot covers to have on hand? Do you need to put hand washers, a hand sanitizer station at the door of your barn. Think of ways that you can implement some biosecurity practices that are really quick and really simple, that don't take a lot of time and effort for you to do because a little bit, if all those little things add up to be big things and will help you to protect the livestock that you are raising and yourself and then other people's livestock as well. Remember that no one action is going to protect your animals. It's the culmination and it's the combination of everything that you're doing that will help biosecurity practices help reduce risks. They do not eliminate risk. We're always going to have risk because we live in an imperfect world and there are just so many nasty things out there that we can't protect our animals and ourselves from everything. But if we're using some really good practices, we're going to reduce that risk pretty significantly. Remember, doing something is better than doing nothing. So even if it's just the smallest thing like dedicating one pair of shoes and not wearing those to the farm store. Even if it's just washing your hands and somebody. In our question-and-answer pod wanted to make sure that we are talking about properly washing your hands. So remember, happy birthday song, sing happy birthday twice 20 seconds plus washing your hands with soap and water, making sure that you get every nook and cranny and your thumb in-between your thumbs and your fingers, your nails, everything because a lot of pathogens live on our hands because we are touching everything in our environment. So making sure that we're we're washing our hands thoroughly is going to make big difference. With that. We will go ahead and field any questions that you might have. If you've got anything in the chat pod, I know it looks like we've got one hand raised. Lastly, do you want me to I will give you permission. You have a question. I'll unmute. Yeah. Okay. So question. What barn shoes do you recommend to keep bacteria, et cetera at bay? Casey, do you want to field that  or do you want me to.  I mean, it's honestly up to you. Rubber muck boots are perfect. Honestly, they're cheap, you can use all the time. they do get a little hot in the summer, but that's my $0.02 about it. Yeah. I would just add to that that if you don't want to use rubber boots, you want to wear a pair of tennis shoes. Just make sure that you're washing those. Maybe once a week, wash them. You can also put a foot bath in inside of your door of your barn, your barn, so you're dipping those shoes. One of the really most important things that you can do when you're cleaning and disinfecting. So if you think about it in steps, so when we clean, we're cleaning out all of the organic material. You can use scrub brushes, whatever, get all that organic material off because you can't sanitize organic materials. So manure, Grass, Mud, anything like that, that might be on the bottom of your shoes, get up, get all that stuff off. Then you can sanitize with bleach, Vergennes. There's a lot of different commercially available products that are out there. You just have to decide what works for you. Bleach is definitely probably the most economical and the easiest to access. So anything that you do will help him mad. So that's a great question.