Published: 24 Mar 2020
Good farm biosecurity practices will help keep pests and diseases from becoming established on-farm.
Just as we are currently taking measures to stop the spread of Covid-19 in our human population, there are practices we can implement to prevent disease in our cattle population.
Towards the end of 2019, the Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers (TFGA) conducted a very informative and comprehensive session on farm biosecurity. Below are some of the key points provided by the guest speakers.
Why is biosecurity important
Biosecurity can prevent or minimise the negative impact of weeds, pests and diseases on your business. It can also help reduce production costs and maintain or gain access to markets.
Biosecurity follows the adage ‘prevention is better than cure’ by aiming to put in place procedures that will prevent weeds, pests and diseases entering the farm gate.
The highest biosecurity risk comes from the introduction of new plants or animals to a farm. There are a few practices which can effectively reduce this risk:
- Obtain a cattle health declaration with your new stock.
- Drench and let the animals empty out in the yards before putting them in a paddock.
- Isolate the new animals for as long as practical – preferably 21 days. Being transported can be stressful for animals and this stress can precipitate a disease event. Keeping the animals quarantined for 21 days allows time for the disease to incubate. If animals are checked frequently for disease, this can be dealt with before they are introduced to rest of the herd, preventing spread of the disease. However, not all diseases will be symptomatic within this timeframe so this does not eliminate risk but does reduce risk.
- Check and treat for lice if necessary.
Early reaction if you notice any unusual signs of disease in your animals, is an important tool in reducing the potential spread. If you do notice something unusual, isolate the affected group and talk to a trusted animal health adviser. Take and send photos if you can.
Weeds can have a severe impact on production. The footwell on the driver’s side of a vehicle is one of the most common places for transport of weed seed. Other entry points for weed seeds are:
- Contaminated grain or hay
- Attached to stock hair and wool
- Contaminated seed
- Attached to or lying in produce containers
- Soil attached to plants
The Weed Management Act 1999 lists 147 species of weeds for which import, sale, purchase, propagation and use is prohibited. Approximately one-third of these weeds are not naturalised in Tasmania – and the aim is to keep it that way by having good biosecurity practices that keep them out and by identifying and controlling strange weeds if they occur on your farm. “See it, secure it, report it”.
More information about weeds and weed management is available at www.dpipwe.tas.gov.au/invasive-species.
Watch out for the second round of the Weed Action Funding offered by the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment to help manage weeds on farms.
Cats can spread disease
One of the most often not-mentioned biosecurity risks in Tasmania is cats. Cats can act as hosts for the protozoan parasite Toxoplasma gondii which causes the disease toxoplasmosis. Toxoplasmosis causes abortions and stillbirths in sheep. Luckily for dairy farmers, while cattle can be infected with toxoplasmosis, it has not been associated with either abortions or calf mortality. However, toxoplasmosis is a risk to human health, particularly pregnant women.
Cats also have a negative impact through their active predation on wildlife – on average, one domestic cat kills 75 animals per year.
The Australian government has an initiative to reduce cat numbers by 2 million by the end of this year.
More information about cat management can be found at www.tassiecat.com.
20 biosecurity steps to protect your farm
The TFGA has prepared a checklist of biosecurity practices that can help protect your farm. How many of these practices do you have in place?
- I have a property Identification Code (PIC)
- I have a visitor log for my farm
- I inspect all plant/animals coming onto my farm for pest and diseases
- I and my farm team follow hygiene protocols
- I and my farm team are trained to recognise signs of pest and diseases in plants/animals on-farm
- My livestock are registered on the National Livestock Identification System (NLIS)
- I have designated farm boots and wash/disinfect my boots if they leave the farm
- Plants/animals leaving the farm are inspected for signs of pests or diseases before leaving the farm
- I clean/disinfect equipment coming on to my farm
- I do not feed swill to pigs or Restricted Animal Materials (RAM) to ruminants
- I have biosecurity signs at farm entrances
- I restrict access to my farm
- I have designated parking areas on my farm
- I quarantine all plants/animals coming on to my farm for a minimum of 2 days but ideally 21 days
- I maintain fences on my property
- I routinely monitor my plants/animals for signs of pests and diseases
- I inspect cars/machinery coming on my farm and clean them in designated wash-down areasI regularly monitor my farm for rodents and other pests and have a pest control program in place
- Livestock coming on to my farm are accompanied by a Livestock Health Declaration
- I monitor and control weeds on my farm
The above list has been adapted from “20 biosecurity steps to protect your farm!” produced by the TFGA. The TFGA checklist can be accessed here: https://tfga.com.au/uploads/documents/On-Farm-Biosecurity-Checklist.pdf
The TFGA has a multitude of biosecurity resources including on-farm biosecurity planners. Visit www.tfga.com.au to find out more.