Making your farm a ‘biosecurity island’ can help you protect your business sustainability.
Last month I compared farms in the DairyNZ Economic Farm Survey of the 2016-17 season.
The data, over time, has shown that high input farms have, on average, made more profit, had greater equity growth, had a higher return on assets and had lower term liabilities/kgMS.
While financial performance is important for business sustainability, the recent outbreak of M. bovis has highlighted the impact that a biosecurity breach can have on business sustainability. Farmers have moved swiftly to attend meetings and upskill themselves to deal with potential biosecurity outbreaks on their properties.
M. bovis, due to the efforts of MPI and other industry organisations, is unlikely to directly affect most of us. The actual effect of M. bovis is a huge wake-up call to farmers about biosecurity. Most of us had become very slack at averting the risk that bio-hazards (i.e. weeds, pests and diseases) could have on our systems. Because of M. bovis that has now changed.
Farmers face many biosecurity threats: cropping farmers face threats from, e.g. velvetleaf, alligator weed, Chilean needle grass or broomcorn millet. All these weeds (esp. velvetleaf) have enormous potential to undermine the sustainability of cropping. Here are some tips to reduce the chance of your farm becoming infected:
Make a ‘biosecurity island’ of your property. At a joint DairyNZ/MPI seminar on the M. bovis outbreak, farmers were advised to think of their farms as ‘islands’, and their staff as the customs control officers at ‘border control’. The more the farmer can control what happens on the farm, the greater the reduction in risk of negative outside influences.
We have noticed that many farmers are moving to be completely self-contained feedwise by growing all their feed on land they control. This enables them to keep their cows at home over winter, so reducing the risk of cross infection.
The approach by dairy farmers in preventing new incursions of M. bovis is exactly the same as cropping farmers need to take, i.e. consider your farm an ‘island’ with you as the custom control officers.
Adopt a ‘clean on, clean off’ policy on farm equipment. Any piece of machinery coming on to the property needs to be inspected to make sure it is clean of soil or plant material. Likewise, the farm needs to provide washdown facilities for cleaning any gear leaving the property. If you do that, you are not liable for transferring any pest or weed from your property onto another property. Under the Biosecurity Act, a person can be prosecuted who knowingly moves infected plant or soil material from one property to the next.
Check purchased feed (maize silage, grass silage, hay) before harvest. None of us would buy a car without first going to the dealers and fully checking the car. However, I know many farmers who buy in feed without making the effort to inspect the crop they are buying. If you are buying feed in, it pays to call your feed seller and ask to see the crop before harvest. In so doing, you can check to see what, if any, problems you may be importing.
Lastly, my heart goes out to all those farmers who have become innocent victims of the reckless behaviour of one individual. Hopefully, if we all remain vigilant, the chance of any further incursions of harmful substances will be greatly reduced.
• Ian Williams is a Pioneer forage specialist. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
By: Ian Williams, Pioneer forage specialist
Source: Rural News