Keeping livestock and poultry healthy, i.e. biosecurity, is the keystone to any livestock or poultry agricultural endeavor. Healthy animals grow better, reproduce more efficiently and produce more economically valuable products. Unhealthy animals cause a producer to spend more time managing the stock, more money on health inputs and vet bills, and often produce less or poor quality products. Without healthy animals, conservation, production, and profitability are impossible.

Follow the links at left to learn everything you need to know about creating a contagious disease biosecurity plan, why it’s important to protect your livestock and poultry from outside contagions, and specific poultry health precautions that are vital to keeping  your farm operational.

Biosecurity is Essential to Saving Rare Breeds

Based on information provided by Richard Reynnells, National Program Leader, Animal Production Systems, USDA CSREES/PAS, compiled by the staff from The Livestock Conservancy.
  • Protecting your stock from infectious disease is an important aspect of conservation. The activities and strategies employed in preventing disease transmission constitutes a biological security program. Biosecurity is important at all times, but during outbreaks it is even more important to review your biosecurity practices.

  • Biosecurity is one of the most difficult management concepts to consistently employ, but is especially critical for owners of rare breeds because small populations make them especially vulnerable. Teaching and talking about biosecurity is relatively easy. Doing it is difficult, but that should not dissuade farmers from establishing a program. Do not be intimidated by your inability to implement a comprehensive program. A minimal biosecurity program implemented in increments is better than no program at all.

  • Livestock owners should observe these guidelines at all times but especially when there has been an outbreak of an infectious disease:

  • First and foremost, use common sense: do not bring germs to your animals and do not bring your animals to germs.

  • Post a sign at the gate or entrance to your farm and at the animal facilities that tells people that your animals are important and you are trying to prevent disease transfer.

  • Limit contact with other animals. Clean and disinfect your clothes and boots following contact.

  • Limit your visits to other farms, and clean and disinfect your clothes and boots following visits.

  • When buying stock, establish a quarantine area on your farm. Do chores associated with these animals last. Clean and disinfect your clothes and boots following these chores, then shower. Use these quarantine practices for any sick animals too.

  • Do not share tools or equipment with other farmers. If sharing high-priced items is absolutely necessary, thoroughly clean and disinfect the equipment (tires included) before it leaves your farm and before allowing it back on your farm.

  • Exercise control over visitors’ access to your animals.

  • Install a farm gate and lock it.

  • Wash down and disinfect all vehicles entering the farm. Should there be an outbreak of a reportable disease in your state or region, clean and disinfect feed trucks, delivery vehicles, gas meter reader, and all other vehicles before allowing them on your farm. If you drive off your farm, disinfect your vehicle before re-entering your farm.

Creating a Biosecurity Plan

In the event of an outbreak of an infectious disease all of the above guidelines should be enhanced and rigidly enforced. There should be NO outside contact and NO visitors. Clean and disinfect all incoming people and vehicles – without exception. Some viruses can survive in the human respiratory tract for several days. Should there be a disease outbreak you should not expose yourself to diseased animals, or to people who have worked with diseased animals, and then care for your own animals.

The disaster resulting from reportable diseases like foot and mouth disease, avian influenza, or hog cholera would be compounded if endangered breeds of livestock and poultry are destroyed and their survival further threatened. Plan for their safekeeping today.

Natural Hardiness
One of the reasons rare breeds of livestock and poultry are so loved by their keepers is because they are so naturally hardy. This hardiness comes from practical selection within the environment of the small farm, where expense decisions have historically been carefully weighed. Judicious practices such as culling unthrifty individuals and families, when practiced over many generations, leave most Conservation Priority List breeds with very hardy immune systems. This hardiness, however, does not make these breeds immune to all potential health threats.

In planning to maintain the health and hardiness of rare breeds, there are a number of tools available: careful and well-thought-out breeding strategies, selective culling, appropriate nutrition plans, modern medicine, passive transfer of antibodies, and reducing potential exposure to disease. All of these and more represent the scope of biosecurity. The last point, reducing potential exposure to disease, is particularly important during times of disease threat and is an element easily controlled by you, the steward, for very little expense.

The threat of contagious disease can be reduced or prevented by reducing the possibility of contact between the disease and the animal. This is done by addressing the many ways disease could be introduced. Controlling disease transmission vectors is particularly important when a highly infectious disease is circulating. Given that today, distance is much less a limiting factor, all livestock keepers should implement such individual biosecurity protocols that will work well for their own situation.

A Contagious Disease Biosecurity Plan is useful in preventing disease, and in validating and documenting your commitment to disease prevention. During times of disease outbreak, having a Contagious Disease Biosecurity Plan and evidence of its implementation may be the difference between retention and pre-emptive destruction of your stock due to disease eradication efforts..

Protocols – Sample Plan (.pdf)
The Livestock Conservancy has compiled a list of biosecurity protocols that can be used to tailor a Contagious Disease Biosecurity Plan for your individual farm. The sample plan can be adopted as is, or can be reviewed as a basis in formulating a custom plan. This Plan outlines protocols to implement during routine or crisis situations – you simply check off those protocols that will work on your farm. Choosing protocols can be easy, but it is important that you can and do follow all of those protocols you select. So, use the Plan as an outline to help you understand the principles of biosecurity and to help you formulate procedures that fit the particular needs of your farm. What you do today will protect you and your livestock well into the future.