On the 27th of March, we had a discussion group in Te Mata to discuss biosecurity on farm, with a focus on how we could prevent importation of diseases.
It had just been announced that MPI were culling 22,000 animals from Mycoplasma-infected properties so this was a principal concern.
Does this mean the disease has been tracked to all the possible properties?
The concern that this disease moved so far and that animals can be infected without signs of clinical disease was raised; should we have closed the Cook Strait? If so, how would this have affected our overseas meat exports? Hopefully we will soon have more answers.
The NAIT system was discussed in detail. In particular, how often animals received are not the animals entered into the system, and how often animals aren’t tracked at all, or don’t have tags on arrival.
We then brainstormed the main routes of infection (of any infectious disease) onto farm and these broke down into the following groups – incoming stock, people (and dogs!), vehicles and over the fence.
We then discussed what changes we could make to our systems to reduce risk.
NAIT tags on incoming stock should be checked and animals checked for disease on arrival, quarantine drenches are common, but quarantine of these animals for seven days before exposure to other animals on farm was not. We discussed that this is not always practical, but that it would give some reassurance that they are healthy after travelling. Travelling stress can knock animals’ immune systems, allowing diseases to show. Sick animals should be marked, recorded, separated and treated.
People coming on farm can be an issue when unannounced visitors arrive and walk over the farm. We discussed that this would be more of an issue on dairy farms as often the farmhouse is separate, and that a sign at the farm gate with directions or a phone number may be helpful. Asking truck drivers to keep their dogs on the truck, or whether the dogs have been wormed and vaccinated, would be an easy way to prevent the sharing of parvovirus or sheep measles.
“Fomites” are objects or materials which are likely to carry infection, such as clothes, boots, vehicles and equipment. While disinfecting boots etc. may seem unnecessary to many this is a good way to prevent sharing of disease. However cleaning boots with a good stiff brush is more important and practical than disinfecting. This is also relevant to vehicles coming on farm.
‘Over the fence’ can also be a biosecurity issue. Short of asking your neighbour if he has certain diseases on farm you don’t know what animals are passing over the fence! Preventing animals from having direct contact with animals with unknown health status is preferable. Simple measures like making sure boundary fences are solid and if bordering on bush, pest control, would be a good step. Many dairy farmers down south are double fencing their properties so that nose to nose contact is impossible.
This was a useful discussion for all attending to discuss practical ways to protect our farms, and also helped us nail down the weak areas on our specific farms that could allow the introduction of disease. Importing animals was seen as the number one concern for bringing in disease.
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