Creating an enhanced biosecurity plan now could help dairy producers avoid big headaches if foot and mouth disease ever contaminates the U.S.
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Dairy Farm Enhanced Biosecurity Plans Are Insurance for a Foot and Mouth Disease Outbreak
National Pork Board

These plans outline farm operations, keeping cows safe and the milk shipping out. Without a plan, a foot and mouth disease detection nearby could result in an operation needing to dump milk until they can get the plan written, approved and have a permit for milk transport administered — all during a time of crisis.

The writing and approval can happen now.

“A lot of people want that permit,” Dr. Hayley Springer of Penn State said. “The people at the front of that line are going to be the people who already have these plans.”

Through the Secure Milk Supply program, Penn State Extension is writing a template that would help farmers, with or without a computer, create their farm’s plan, Springer said at the Pennsylvania Dairy Summit on Feb. 7.

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Dr. Hayley Springer presents about enhanced biosecurity plans for dairy farms during the Pennsylvania Dairy Summit on Feb. 7, 2024. She is showing a map of Rohrer Dairy's plan, indicating points of entry through the farm's line of separation.

 

Springer hopes the template will be ready in the near future, with events to help producers planned for late 2024. After template completion, she’d like to see veterinarians trained to help farmers plan.

Long term, she is hoping processors will be able to help with plan setup, since it is a mutually beneficial insurance policy.

Enhanced Biosecurity

An enhanced biosecurity plan is unique to the operation, considering its layout to determine how the farm functions while keeping animals safe. Each plan should highlight the following:

A Line of Separation

This differentiates between the farm and society, Springer said. Nobody and nothing should cross this without intention and cleaning.

Some producers may have to section their farm for the plan, specifically if a public road crosses the operation. This requires doubled entrance points and cleaning and disinfecting stations.

Cleaning and Disinfecting Stations

Designating along the line of separation, everything from milk trucks to FedEx deliveries needs to be cleaned. There can be multiple spots for cleaning.

Part of planning requires staff training for cleaning and disinfecting, Springer said. Keep logs of all training.

Moving People

In crisis, visitors should be minimized, but methods are important for when guests are necessary.

The Danish entry system works well. People enter a space and leave shoes and jackets worn in on one side of a room and put on clean farm boots and coveralls on the other side.

Moving Feed

Is food storage within the line of separation? How will it be brought in? How will storage access be affected if an outbreak occurs during harvest?

Part of enhanced biosecurity is determining contingency plans, Springer said. If food can’t safely be brought onto the farm, is there a nutritionist to help alter rations based on what’s there?

Crisis may mean managing for animal welfare and not top production.

Animal Movement and Housing

Farms, based on their daily operation, fall in one of four categories for moving animals: 1. there is no need; 2. they need to move within farm-associated land; 3. animals will move off farm and not come back; or 4. animals will move back and forth across the line of separation. Three and four are not recommended, Springer said.

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Dr. Hayley Springer presents about enhanced biosecurity plans for dairy farms during the Pennsylvania Dairy Summit on Feb. 7, 2024. She is showing equipment needed for sanitation during crisis.

 

If animals need to move, specifically from within farm-associated land, operations can plan to clean the hauling vehicle and grant access or use a trailer transfer, moving animals from one to another at the line of separation.

This stage of planning should also consider animal housing and exposures they actively face. Does the fence butt up against another farm? Does a stream flow through pasture that would have previously crossed another farm?

Plans should be in place for bull calves, cull cows, dry cows and heifers since the necessity of movement, housing choices and the implementation of safety may differ by type. The enhanced biosecurity plan should also consider where these animals will be housed, if it needs to change.

Euthanasia Protocol

Most farms have one if they are in compliance with the FARM program, but in times of crisis, euthanasia must be possible without a veterinarian, Springer said.

Humanely euthanizing animals is always an option during outbreaks, Springer said, especially if other limitations are threatening survival, like being unable to get food on site.

Milk Disposal

Milk may need to be dumped, especially early on before movement permits are issued, Springer said. Planning should determine where it will go.

One sample farm planned to put it in their manure pits. Others may have to put it on the field.

Both of these decisions have nutrient management plan implications to consider. Depending on crisis severity and permit status, part of the plan could be how to reduce milk production to limit the amount to dump.

Active Observational Surveillance

If an outbreak starts, a member of the staff needs to be trained to identify signs of foot and mouth disease. This includes recognizing lesions, but more importantly, the individual needs to be able to identify behaviors that may be a result of the disease.

Milk Transfer

There are four options for milk pickups, ranking in order of most preferred to least: 1. truck and hose stay on respective sides of the line of separation; 2. hose crosses the line but truck doesn’t; 3. truck enters the farm, but the driver stays inside; 4. the truck enters, and the driver needs to leave the cab.

The farm’s layout will determine which options a farm has. If the truck needs to enter, it will be cleaned and disinfected, and the driver should be briefed on biosecurity plans if he needs to exit the cab.

Having multiple staff members with weighing sampling licenses can help limit need for drivers to exit the truck.

The enhanced biosecurity plan needs to be reviewed every year and should be rewritten every five years.

Everyday Biosecurity

An enhanced biosecurity plan is only part of a farm’s safety strategy.

The enhanced plan looks at safety between the farm and society and goes into effect when necessary. Biosecurity needs to be considered every day — from switching between cows and heifers to safety when administering vaccinations.

Disease can travel by vectors, iatrogenic methods, direct contact, oral methods, aerosols, fomite methods and reproductive methods. The Pennsylvania dairy industry does well protecting against vector and reproductive diseases, Springer said.

But iatrogenic and fomite safety is lacking. Fomite means diseases tracked in through boots, tires, etc,

Iatrogenic is a result of disease transfer because of human intervention, like needles.

“Number one reason for condemnation is lymphosarcoma, which is caused by bovine leukosis virus, which can be spread on a needle,” Springer said.

While everyday biosecurity and enhanced security are separate in the dairy industry right now, Springer would like to see some enhanced practices become the norm, similar to how biosecurity evolved in the swine and poultry industries.

“A Danish entry and making sure everybody entering your farm is wearing farm dedicated boots and not something that went to another farm, a. it’s doable and b. that’s a really easy way to stop the spread of diseases like salmonella Dublin, which, if anybody’s had salmonella Dublin, you know you don’t want it,” Springer said.

Producers interested in participating in Penn State’s development of enhanced biosecurity plans can visit lanc.farm/EnhancedBiosecurity to sign up.

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