• Megan Silveira, assistant editor

Why, Who and How of a Biosecurity Plan

It takes thought and action to keep your operation safe.




“Remember that biosecurity is a verb.”

Julia Herman’s statement echoed through the room during the 2022 Cattle Industry Convention and Trade Show. The beef veterinarian specialist for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) presented “Practical Biosecurity Steps,” helping producers better understand the why, who and how behind a proper plan.

Biosecurity is a necessary consideration to help keep both foreign and domestic diseases out of an operation. Successful biosecurity plans require a cattleman find the balance between what’s necessary and what’s practical, she added.

“You as the producer have the most control of biosecurity,” she explained.

Herman said after living the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic in recent years and now facing the very real threat of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) reaching the United States, all agriculturists should have a biosecurity plan in place. Biosecurity, simply put, is all about keeping diseases — both foreign and domestic — from entering an operation, she said.

Herman added some biosecurity practices are likely already being implemented on the farm or ranch. She said it’s all about documenting those practices and always looking for other ways to help reduce disease that make the biggest difference for the safety of individual herds and the beef industry as a whole.


Developing a plan

Herman said biosecurity starts with the ability to talk with your team.

“You can’t really have a biosecurity plan without a good communication plan,” she explained.

If a member of a cattle operation doesn’t know what information they should share or who they should share it with in times of crisis, biosecurity cannot be guaranteed.

Herman said the whole team should be trained in a communication plan to help save time, create efficiency and prevent further threats of disease.

Once communication has been established, Herman said producers can lay out the key principles of the biosecurity plan.

Biosecurity measures may not eliminate risk, but Herman said they often reduce transmission probability by order of magnitude. She listed the following as the main elements of a plan:

  • Exclusion: focuses on separation and distance

  • Physical separation: similar to exclusion; looks at physical barriers (such as walls, gates, fences, pest control, etc.), quarantine periods and procedural methods of cleaning equipment

  • Cleaning: the removal of contamination before the process of disinfection

  • Disinfection: targeting a specific pathogen before equipment is used again

No matter what stage a breeder is at in the biosecurity discussion, Herman has a few basic tips that can help protect their operations and prevent the spread of disease.

She suggested producers keep stressed or sick animals far from their healthy counterparts. From the location of feed and water troughs to actual pasture space, she said the greater the distance, the better. She added that contact with wildlife should also be limited.

Equipment should be kept both clean and dry, cattle should be grouped by age, and feed should be kept protected and covered.

Biosecurity is not a specific person, place or thing. Herman said true biosecurity requires action from cattlemen to be successful.