Foot and mouth vigilence and biosecurity

Vigilance should be top of farmers’ agendas now as the confirmation of foot-and-mouth disease 10 miles from the previous outbreaks means it could have spread even further afield.

And most worryingly, Devon-based vet Andrew Biggs says if this is the same strain as the previous outbreak symptoms may be difficult to spot. “An attenuated vaccine strain of foot-and-mouth may, due to is purpose, cause much lesser lesions and other symptoms than a naturally occurring strain. Farmers need to be extremely vigilant and report any suspicious symptoms to vets immediately.”

Mr Biggs said the discovery of the disease 10 miles from last month’s outbreaks meant it could have travelled anywhere else in the UK too.

“Everyone has been playing catch up in terms of animal movements in recent days in an attempt to get back to normal and in the belief the disease had been stamped out. This means stock could have travelled all over the country potentially carrying infection with them.

“In light of this, farmers everywhere should implement the highest levels of biosecurity and vigilance and ensure no one enters their premises without their knowledge.”

No one should be shy of asking visitors where they have or haven’t been, he added. “When you’re unsure of what they tell you don’t allow them on your farm. And accurate records should be kept of all visitors and their previous movements. People moving from farm to farm such as vets, foot trimmers and other contractors pose the greatest risk.”

In terms of practical biosecurity measures Mr Biggs says all vehicles should be pressure washed and disinfected on arrival and departure from farms. “The key is the clean vehicles before they’re disinfected as disinfection won’t work on dirty vehicles.”

Other key biosecurity measures include:

  • Avoid visiting other farms unless absolutely necessary
  • Keep different species of livestock separate where possible
  • When handling your animals, be aware that sheep do not always show obvious signs of the disease and you could inadvertently infect other animals.
  • Keep everything clean – materials like mud or bedding on clothes, boots equipment or vehicles can carry the virus from farm to farm or between different groups of livestock on the farm.
  • It is essential that you clean yourself, your vehicle and everything you carry thoroughly when you move between different groups of livestock on the farm.
  • Make sure you have disinfectant and cleaning material ready at your farm entrance, so that essential visitors can disinfect themselves before entering the premises and as they leave.