Biosecurity practices are employed to reduce the risk of everyday threats from endemic diseases and, just as importantly, from rare but costly exotic disease incursions.
By far the greatest threat of introducing disease is the purchase of cattle.
What diseases are important to you will depend upon your operation, the availability of low-risk cattle and the market you are supplying.
For instance, Johnes disease may not be as important to a trading operation as it is to a breeding operation.
These threats can be reduced with simple practices that are easy to implement and inexpensive — and the pay-off is ongoing and cumulative.
The best approach to purchasing cattle can be broken down into three phases: pre-farm gate, receival and on-farm.
It’s as much about stopping the disease’s spread as it is about its entry to the farm.
Pre-farm gate is where all the preliminary checks are done to make sure the cattle you are buying are healthy and unlikely to be carrying any disease that may affect the rest of your herd.
Check the Cattle Health Declaration (previously ‘Statement’) for information on disease status and previous treatments including vaccinations for clostridials and lepto (7 in 1) drenches.
Check all cattle look healthy.
Pestivirus carrier animals are usually, but not always, poor ‘doers’ and look less than healthy. They usually die before two years of age.
The Australian beef industry introduced a new, national approach to Johnes disease in cattle in 2016. Make sure you’re across the new risk profiling tools like Johnes Beef Assurance Score (J-BAS) — the higher the score the lower the risk.
If you’re buying bulls, pestivirus antigen negative is a must, along with history of vibrio vaccination.
Receival is when all preventative treatments are done as cattle enter the farm.
All cattle should get a quarantine drench to remove resistant worms with a mixture of three different actives and then be allowed to clean out for 48 to 72 hours in the yards if possible.
If they have come from a fluke area then a combination drench with Triclabendazole should also be used.
Any other health treatments that are required should be given now, such as vaccinations or trace element supplementation.
Once on-farm, keep the new arrivals separate from the rest of the herd for a period of at least a month to ensure they are healthy.
The quarantine paddock should not allow nose-to-nose contact with the rest of the herd so should be separated with a laneway or shelter belt.
At this stage any illness or death should be investigated by a vet.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of disease management recommendations.
■For a more comprehensive approach, download the biosecurity planning tool from www.lbn.org.au or visit the Farm Biosecurity website.
■To bolster biosecurity on your farm, download the free FarmBiosecurity app.
—Dr Pat Kluver, biosecurity and extension manager, Livestock Biosecurity Network