How to reduce the spread of infection in cattle on your farm

There are two main sources of infection on your farm; infected animals and contaminated environment, equipment and visitors, Animal Health Ireland (AHI) says.

So how do you go about reducing the spread of infection from animals and the environment?

AHI says to avoid bringing in new diseases so having stringent bio-exclusion practices on the farm will help to prevent new diseases coming into your herd from outside.

Diagnose and treat sick animals promptly; according to AHI, treatment reduces the number of sick animals on the farm and potentially reduces the amount of infectious agent being produced by the animal.

Identifying sick animals quickly is very important to get the best response to treatment so good stockmanship is needed, it says.

Your veterinary practitioner may recommend treating all animals in a group, AHI says, not just the sick animals, e.g. respiratory disease.

Isolate or remove animals from the group/herd.

It says that individual sick animals should be isolated from the rest of the herd during treatment.

For some diseases, treatment is not appropriate because the animal will not respond AHI says e.g. those persistently infected (PI) with BVD virus.

Once identified, it says that the best option is to move PIs promptly to an isolation area and cull as soon as possible.

AHI has the following advice on how to reduce the source of infections from the farm environment:

Reducing stocking density in critical areas such as calving pens and calf houses will reduce infection challenge.

Ensure that housing and handling facilities remain adequate for the size of your herd.

Cleaning and disinfecting contaminated housing; calving pens, isolation boxes and calf pens must be cleaned and disinfected with approved disinfectants after use. 

Composting manure and storing slurry; the longer that manure is allowed to compost or slurry is stored the lower the risk of disease transmission.

Regularly emptying and cleaning feed and water troughs. AHI says to keep troughs at a height that they can only be accessed by your cattle.

Water troughs should be regularly checked to ensure they are clean. Any persistent source of dampness or water leakage can promote survival of parasites and bacterial.

Ensure pipes, taps, drinkers, gutters and roofs are adequately maintained.

Reducing equipment and machinery contamination

  • Clean and disinfect equipment after each use: e.g. slurry spreading equipment, trailers, calving aids.
  • Use disposable equipment where possible: e.g. needles, syringes, gloves and dispose of appropriately.
  • Clean and disinfect animal handling equipment after each use: e.g. tongs, stomach tube used to feed scouring calves.

Overall reducing the number and scale of infectious sources on the farm makes reducing the spread of disease easier.