25 December 1998

Milk producers need to beef up disease security

By Jeremy Hunt

MILK producers must address the health status of their herds as a future management priority. Failure to do so could impact on saleability of their milk.

Senior MAFF vet Graham David says UK dairy farms are in a very poor state of disease security.

"I truly believe the industry has got to get to grips with this issue very soon. There are important reasons why much stricter controls must be introduced to the day-to-day running of dairy farms to minimise spread of disease from outside the unit," Mr David told dairy farmers in Cheshire.

Speaking at a meeting of the Cattle Health Forum, organised by the faculty of veterinary science at Liverpool Universitys Leahurst Centre, he said dairy farmers must look more closely at possible threats to herd health status.

"That means taking a different perspective on vehicles, personnel, cattle, bird life and other animals that could introduce infection.

"High health status pig herds maintain a strict code of practice for any vehicles or individuals entering the unit. On dairy farms there are all sorts of comings and goings without any controls imposed. This is putting herd health at risk."

Undertaking measures to safeguard feed from contamination is an important step in reducing disease spread.

"Starlings and other birds and wildlife, are a prime source of salmonella infection when coming into contact with feed; even farm cats and dogs are often found fouling close to feed stores and even on the feed itself because no precautions are taken to keep them away.

"A two-fold attack is needed to control the spread of disease and, more importantly, to stop it coming on to the farm in the first place."

Buying-in cattle from other herds presented a serious health risk. "People talk of buying-in from well known herds but they never think to ask about the health status of that herd. Cattle that are bought-in must always be quarantined for at least four weeks."

Mr David, who works for the Veterinary Laboratories Agency at Shrewsbury, urged all farmers to undertake a disease security audit of their entire holding. Producers should ask themselves how secure the farm is in terms of allowing disease to be brought in; what are the weaknesses and what threats do they pose to the herd?

Is there anywhere that sick or newly bought-in animals can be housed in a quarantine situation and where all muck and bedding from these animals can be kept separately? Is there a clean area of concrete, at least 30m (100ft) distant from the cows, where farm visitors can park and change into clean clothing before entering the premises?

Can arrangements be made for lorries to have access to the farm without coming close to stock? How good is the farms fencing? Are stock able to gain contact with a neighbours stock across field boundaries and risk picking up IBR, BVD or other transmissible diseases?

"Dairy farmers should be more diligent about who they allow on to their farms and ask every visitor if they have been to another farm.

"If they have, it is important to ascertain what precautions have been taken to avoid the spread of disease between holdings." &#42

CATTLEFORUM MEETINGS

&#8226 Jan 12 Cattle and badgers.

&#8226 Feb 9 Breeding for health.

&#8226 Mar 9 Feeding straights.

&#8226 Apr 13 Health and high yielding cows.

&#8226 May 11 Salmonella and E coli update.

&#8226 Further details of these meetings from Jean Chadwick (0151-794 6026).