Increase biosecurity in the livestock farm

Biosafety is a difficult name for all the measures taken to prevent certain diseases (salmonella, BVD, IBR, mycoplasma, paratuberculosis …) from entering the farm and from spreading diseases within the farm (eg calf diarrhea or mycoplasma from cow to calf). This concept has long been established in the pig and poultry sector and has become an indispensable part of daily business operations. Just think about taking a shower before entering the stable and the company clothes everyone should wear.

To be sure, there is still a lot to be gained in raising livestock. After all, investing in biosafety has been shown to result in fewer diseases, less drug use, healthier animals, and higher production per animal. This article describes some of the small and inexpensive modifications that can be made to increase the biosecurity on your farm and thus improve the health of your animals.


First and foremost, we must prevent germs from getting a chance to enter the farm. The most important route of entry for many diseases is the purchase of animals. However, in addition to the diseases that must be legally investigated (BVD / IBR) when buying a cow, there are many other diseases that can enter the farm in this way and cause the necessary harm. Just think of Mortellaro, mycoplasma, paratuberculosis, salmonella, neospora …

If, however, it was decided to buy a cow, put the animal in quarantine for at least 3 weeks. In this way, possible research can be done on (some of) the above diseases, without the animal being able to infect other livestock.


The second important danger of disease is visitors (veterinarian, dealer, vaccinator, other assistants …). Ensure that company clothing and shoes are always available and that everyone must wear before entering the stable. It is best to hang these clothes in an easily accessible area, preferably also equipped with a washbasin with soap, so that everyone can wash their hands before and after contact with animals. Some farmers go a little further and offer separate shoes and clothing for calves. In this way, the chance of transmission of spores from adult animals to calves is reduced.

Provide a separate area with company clothing and shoes, as well as a soapy wash basin for hand washing before and after contact with animals. Photo: Brecht Scherlink

If you don’t want to save company shoes, a sanitizer container is a commonly used alternative. Of course, these disinfection trays do nothing for compost or any germs that can hang on to your underwear. Ideally, disinfection trays are placed at the entrance to each stable, so that they are always used when someone enters that stable. It is important to replace the sanitizer regularly, especially when it is visibly dirty.

insects and insects

Another point of interest is keeping insects and animals away (other than company cows, of course) in the barn. A consistent pest control policy is essential in the summer. In addition to the anxiety, itching and irritation that flies, mosquitoes and midges bring with them, they can also transmit various diseases to livestock. Examples include acid summer (mastitis), blue tongue and Schmallenberg virus.

There are many “insect repellents” on the market. The most commonly used in Belgium is the so-called pour onProducts, where this product is poured on the back of the animal. In addition, ear plates that must be attached to the I&R number can also be used. In addition to treating animals, so-called “insect traps” can also be hung in the stable. This can be done by hanging duct tape in the hanger, or by means of an electrical appliance.

In addition to insects, mice and rats can also transmit diseases to animals. They are an important entry route for salmonella. You can set traps and/or poison yourself, but a better alternative is to engage a professional company who can control the pests on your farm. Finally, the dog should also be avoided entering the stable. The dog develops infective neospora eggs internally after ingesting contaminated material after birth (postpartum, amniotic fluid …). If the dog then drops these infected eggs into livestock feed via manure, the cows can become infected and have a greater chance of miscarriage.

cars and materials

In addition to animals and people, wagons and materials that come in contact with manure from another company also pose a disease risk, just consider the combined use of a manure wagon or livestock truck with a fellow farmer or barn trader driving to fetch an ox. Thoroughly cleaning and sanitizing these cars is a must. The provision of a separate barn or stall, away from other animals, where the animals leaving the farm are placed, is a very effective measure to prevent the introduction of disease.

drinking water

Contamination of drinking water can occur at the source, in the storage tank, in pipes or in drains. It is therefore recommended to check the quality of drinking water twice a year by bacteriological and chemical analysis in these different places. Drinking troughs should be inspected and cleaned regularly to prevent contamination with manure, urine and feed. To partially prevent this contamination, drinking troughs can be located slightly higher and away from feeding places. In order to avoid contamination of feed or drinking water from insects, birds, dogs and cats, access to feed stores and water tanks should be prevented as much as possible.

Isolate sick animals

In the event of a disease outbreak on the farm, we must also take measures to avoid the transmission of germs within the company.

First of all, a dispensary must be provided. This is a separate place where sick animals can be separated from other animals. Besides the fact that in this way the chance of transmission of the disease is reduced, such an animal will receive more attention, because it stands out better for the caretaker. It is preferable to treat these sick animals after completing all the work over other animals. A disinfection tray can be placed in front of the dispensary or separate clothing and shoes can be provided to go to sick animals.

birth shed

A well-filled hygienic birthing pen is also an ideal measure to prevent transmission of disease to calves and cows. After each birth, this stable is perfectly cleaned, disinfected and then sprayed thickly again. The materials used (delivery device, threads, wheelbarrow) also deserve attention and are better cleaned and disinfected after each use. Make sure not to use the birthing pen as a sick bay.

walking path

Calves are more sensitive to many germs than adult cattle. So it is better to first take care of the calves and feed them, and then move on to older animals. Since this is not always practically possible, it is also possible to have separate clothing and shoes in the calf shed. The implementation of procedures on calves by someone other than the one who takes care of adult cows is also a procedure that is regularly seen in practice.

milking process

On dairy farms, good milking is important to prevent mastitis. The bacteria that cause mastitis can enter the cow from the environment or it can be transmitted from an infected cow to a healthy animal. To ensure that bacteria do not penetrate from the environment, dipping can be used after milking, and it must be ensured that the cow has been standing for at least an hour after milking, and it is better to use the nipple valve after milking. Dry the cows and we have to make sure that the milking installation is working properly (eg the vacuum is correct). The latter can be verified by performing a dynamic measurement by MCC Flanders. Wearing gloves, using one dry cloth per cow as a pretreatment, and milking cows with mastitis and cows with a high cell count are effective measures to prevent the spread of mastitis from infected animals to healthy animals.


The cause of death of the animal can be infectious. So it is best to get the dead animals out of the farm as soon as possible to avoid spreading the disease. Until the carcasses are collected, it is best to store them in a separate storage area with at least a hard floor surface. Preferably, this storage area is located as close to the public road as possible, in order to avoid the introduction of the presented company car into the yard. It is best to use disposable gloves when handling dead bodies and/or hands and it is best to clean and sanitize all handling equipment afterwards. In addition, it is recommended to clean and disinfect the carcass storage area after each use to avoid the spread of diseases from pests, dogs and cats.

Simple and cheap procedures

As you can read, you can make simple and cheap modifications of management and residence to increase the biological security of your farm. These measures will not solve all problems, but they are a good way to achieve better health for the animal. There are of course still many things that can be done to prevent disease from entering and sucking into your company. Consult business advisors about measures you can still apply.

Brecht Scherlink, University of Ghent

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