Biosecurity Is a Priority, and It Starts With You

May 17, 2024

What dangerous pathogens are we carrying with us every day? What pathogens are we accidentally taking home to our families or carrying with us between facilities? These are questions that we must consider daily if we are serious about keeping our families and facilities safe. Infectious diseases are easily one of the biggest threats to the animal agriculture industry, and our complacency towards biosecurity is opening us up to disaster. Biosecurity boils down to our capacity to limit the movement of biologically important diseases on, off, and within our premises. Each of us in the animal agriculture industry plays a pivotal role in this endeavor, no matter how small or large our operations or impacts are. Regardless of our efforts, the biosecurity systems we put in place are only as strong as the individuals willing to implement them. So, what can we all do to uphold our end of the bargain?

Consider a few suggestions:

1. What did I just step in?

The amount of organic material we step in daily would be an overwhelming endeavor to try and quantify. Whether we cross through the maternity pen after a calving, check bunks for feed calls, or walk through the pasture to check calves, we step in some nasty stuff. So, start by making your boot hygiene a priority! This crucial step is simple and can be implemented with very little investment. As a facility, always have access to water and a boot brush. If all facilities do not have these things available, make sure those items are something you have on hand individually. The first step in any biosecurity protocol is removing organic material, starting with soap and water. Manure, dirt, and other biological materials are the main vectors for most transmissible diseases, and disinfectants will not work unless most of the biological material is removed. So, keep your boots clean!

2. Cleanliness is our priority.

Our jobs require us to work hard, get dirty, and get things done, no matter how gross. However, staying dirty is not a rite of passage, nor should it become a fashion statement. The manure-stained coveralls, those pants that participated in last night's calving, and that sweatshirt you never wash all carry an incredible number of pathogens. Many of those pathogens are using us as a vehicle for transmission. This means that having something like clean coveralls you can slip into while starting work each day or when visiting a new operation is critical. Coveralls save your clothes, keep you honest about cleanliness, and are easy to clean. It is okay to get dirty as long as you clean up after.

3. Soap is not a disinfectant.

Soap is the best cleaning agent and is a priority when removing biological material from our hands, boots, and clothing. However, it is not effective in killing biological vectors such as bacteria and viruses. So, what do we do? Look for products with broad-spectrum disinfectant properties, such as quaternary ammonia compounds, oxidizing agents, acids, phenols, and aldehydes when considering surface disinfectants for items like boots or vehicles. When considering products for skin and clothing, find disinfectants that are safe on skin, work well with clothing, and work best in the face of biological contaminants. Follow proper contact time or soaking requirements to ensure complete disinfection. Remember, not all disinfectants cover all pathogens, and it is critical to understand how these products disinfect. Contact your local Neogen representative for more information regarding proper disinfectant agents or for help deciding which compound will work best for your situation. 

4. Walk through it, not over it.

Boot baths are a simple starting point for any animal production facility's biosecurity protocol. Having a boot bath available for all personnel coming on or off the premises is not as challenging as one may think. Boot baths can be as simple as a short plastic container large enough to step in with a boot brush available. This bath could sit outside the milking parlor on a dairy, before you check into the office on a feedlot, or at the entrance near the front of the barn for cow calf operations. The important thing is that it is monitored daily, replaced when dirty, and everyone coming on and off the property walks through it. The same disinfectants we discussed earlier are the same products used for a good boot bath. If a facility does not have a boot bath available, be proactive and find a solution you can implement on your own. Even if this is as simple as a solution mixed into a spray bottle, make sure you are willing to do your part in biosecurity. 

The pathogens we carry with us on and off our facilities have the capacity to wreak havoc with our families and the industry we love. Salmonella, Cryptosporidium, and E. coli have more than once killed loved ones after a family member unknowingly came home from work contaminated. Foot and mouth disease, avian influenza, and other diseases have destroyed economies and livelihoods on more than one occasion as well. Furthermore, there will surely be new diseases that present themselves in the ever-changing world we live in. Biosecurity is a priority, and it starts with you. If you have any questions regarding biosecurity products and protocols, reach out to your Neogen representatives for more information.


Category: Animal Safety, Beef, Dairy, Equine, Sheep & Goat, Swine, Sanitation & Hygiene