Man using a foot-bath on farm© Jonathan Page

The threat of disease being carried by visitors on to UK dairy farms could be greater than first thought, the results of a study suggest.

Recent research found the number of people visiting dairy farms in the UK each week is higher than many farmers realise.

In addition to the regular arrival of buyers, milk tankers, engineers and vets, the study found that six different sales representatives visit an average dairy farm each week.

This means two to three people could arrive on farm each day, it concluded.

Although visitors have a duty to follow biosecurity procedures, farmers must have protocols and facilities in place to make this possible Alison Cox, Sealed Air

Disease exposure

The risk of exposing livestock to disease, which can risk operations and profit, is therefore greater than many realise, says Sealed Air, which carried out the research.

“Most of the farm visitors will be making multiple visits to different farms throughout the course of their working day,” says Alison Cox, global agriculture application specialist at Sealed Air.

“The visitors are unwittingly acting as a carrier that can accelerate the spread of disease from one farm to another via their clothes, boots, equipment and vehicles.”

See also: Biosecurity plan launched to help cattle farmers tackle TB

Outbreak

Typically, she says, action is only taken by farmers to prevent the spread of disease following an outbreak.

But farmers should not wait for crisis before they spring into action, she says.

“Although visitors have a duty to follow biosecurity procedures, farmers must have protocols and facilities in place to make this possible.

“Without such measures, they are not only putting their farm at risk – they are also jeopardising farming livelihoods throughout the UK.

“Biosecurity measures are straightforward to implement and they should be an integral part of daily farm routine,” she says.

See the slides below top tips to minimise the disease threat posed by visitors.