[Joseph Muchiri, Standard]

Dear Daktari, What exactly is biosecurity and how can I have it on my farm. A farmer friend told me that this is one of the ways of preventing costly veterinary costs. But my friend did not really have full information on what biosecurity entails. Any additional information will be highly appreciated.

[John Kinyua Chuka Town.]

Thanks, John, for the good question that will certainly edify many other farmers. Biosecurity are measures that are put in place by farms to reduce the risk of disease entry. Biosecurity measures have become important with the current problem of Anti-microbial resistance as they reduce the use of antibiotics and subsequently reduce veterinary costs which eats at farm profits. Through biosecurity measures, farms reduce the spread of diseases and pests. Most biosecurity measures have a human behavior component and therefore the practice of Biosecurity measures is about farm management practices.

Biosecurity measures include livestock management, farm sanitation, livestock feed management, farm structure maintenance, manure and handling of carcasses and disposal, and disposal of dead animals.

Farm personnel and equipment cleanliness

Pests and disease-causing micro-organisms can be carried by clothes and human hands and feet.  Thorough washing of hands with plenty of water and detergents whenever entering or exiting a farm greatly reduces micro-organism load. Where milking is done by hand they should be thoroughly washed before and after milking, the same applies to workers handling sick or young animals. The provision of disposal gloves for handling sick animals is another practice that can reduce the spread of diseases and pests.

Similarly, farm equipment especially those shared across animals like automatic syringes, ear tag applicators, feeding buckets should also be cleaned after use.  Dirty bedding can also be a source of micro-organisms and regular changing is also a cleanliness biosecurity measure. Footbaths are also biosecurity measures that reduce microbial load on vehicles, human traffic coming into and exiting the farm. Disposable footwear can be used for visitors.

Livestock Management

New stock can be a source of infection in a herd. As a biosecurity measure new animals should be quarantined and observed for any clinical signs before being mixed with the farm herd. This will also help to prevent the spread of diseases to the existing herd from animals that might be harboring a disease without exhibiting any clinical signs. Also, young animals should not be mixed with adult ones as the adult animals can be carriers. Livestock feeds should be kept in a safe and secure place away from contaminants, rodents, birds, dogs, cats, and any wildlife.

Stored feeds should be regularly checked for quality. Tight lids and secured barns will reduce contamination of livestock feeds reducing disease incidences. Water is a source of diseases – you have heard of water-borne diseases a biosecurity measure to make water safe is to give animals clean water and also to ensure the waterers of drinking troughs are thoroughly cleaned regularly. In the same way, farmer water sources should be protected from contamination.

[Dr Othieno is a veterinary surgeon and currently head of communications at the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) Kenya. The views expressed here are not necessarily those of FAO but his own]