Sheep - Biosecurity
Biosecurity for Sheep flocks
With the increasing threat of new diseases such as foot and mouth & bluetongue, the role of biosecurity has very much increased. So what practical steps can be taken to prevent new diseases being introduced to the flock?
The biosecurity plan should be a practical and readily understood set of procedures which can easily be followed buy all those who are involved in the management of the flock.
There are certain key areas to concentrate on : -
- Provide cleansing and disinfectant materials for all visitors/workers on arrival and departure
- Have stock-proof boundaries which are checked and maintained regularly, and minimise nose-to-nose contact with neighbouring stock
- Prevent animals from straying onto roads.
Dirty transport vehicles of all types pose a high risk of introducing infection:
- Use your own vehicles to transport animals where possible & avoid using hauliers with multiple consignment loads
- Clean and disinfect vehicles of all types, including trailers and quad bikes, if exposed to other farms’ animals
- Vehicles must be cleaned and disinfected after transporting animals
- Remember that disinfectant is ineffective if dirt is present.
- Dissuade callers from having contact with livestock
- Avoid wearing dirty work clothes or footwear off the farm, particularly when going to a market
- Wash hands after close contact with any farm animal, ideally providing permanent facilities for this
- Make sure contractors such as shearers have clean equipment & clean protective clothing
- Signpost the farm. This can be important if a disease outbreak occurs.
New animals to farm/returning animals
It is advisable to know the health status of animals you are buying or selling. The entry of any animal onto a farm is a major disease risk. This includes animals which have been purchased at market or animals for seasonal grazing/housing or wintering. But remember it also includes your own sheep which have returned from a sale or a show. The risk is reduced by breeding your own replacements. However, where it is necessary to add new stock:
- Keep new livestock coming onto farm separate for 28 days in an isolation facility. This facilitiy should have the means to inspect, sample and treat any sheep that are kept in it
- Check new arrivals for signs of disease especially the commoner ones eg footrot, scab, lice and worms
- Buy your stock from as small a number of sources as possible
- Make sure stock replacements come with some degree of accreditation or from flocks with known health status eg Enzootic abortion, scrapie , CLA Maedi Visna
- Avoid sharing or hiring rams. If this is unavoidable make sure they are from a known source of equivalent health status to your own
- Consult and agree a testing and dosing programme with your vet. They will be able to advise of different risks depending on the area where the new sheep are coming from. They will also be able to advise on which wormers, flukicides and scab treatments which should be given to new arrivals
- Obtain information on the recent history of the flock and what treatments/vaccinations the animals have received
- Treat for internal and external parasites according to your vet’s advice.
Wild animals and birds can spread disease. To reduce this risk:
- Discourage vermin by keeping farmyard and surroundings clean and tidy
- Prevent wildlife gaining access by keeping feedstock buildings in good repair. Keep doors and windows shut if there is no need for ventilation.
Feed and water
Various diseases can be spread by contaminated feed and water. This risk is reduced by:
- Using mains water wherever possible
- Have water bowls or drinkers above the level for faecal contamination
- Clean feed and water troughs regularly
- Keep feed in a clean, dry store
- Keep feed stores covered and shut to ensure no access by dogs, cats, vermin and wildlife, and dispose of old or soiled feed safely.
Dogs and cats
- Dogs should be regularly treated for tapeworms, particularly newly acquired animals, before they have access to pasture
- Avoid walker’s dogs having free access to livestock areas. As well as the risk of worrying sheep they can carry disease on to the farm
- Cats & vermin must not get into foodstores (cat faeces may contain Toxoplasma which can cause abortion storms in sheep).
The Biosecurity plan should be a working set of procedures that should be drawn up in conjunction with your vet who is already familiar with the disease status of your farm as well as the current local & national risks. The plan should be reviewed regularly and will form an integral part of the annual veterinary flock health plan.
Biosecurity is not a paper exercise – it is entirely in your own interest.