A 2020 survey carried out in the UK has confirmed that one in three dairy farmers do not fully implement biosecurity protocols.

The list of shortcomings includes the use of the wrong disinfectants for the jobs in hand; incorrectly diluting disinfectants; and not having enough boot disinfectant points.

Perhaps the most glaring failure shown by dairy farmers in getting to grips with biosecurity was their failure to insist that everyone visiting their farms – for whatever reason – must disinfect their boots.   

Biosecurity survey

Data collected in the 2020 Progiene UK Dairy Biosecurity Survey indicates that most farms have the opportunity to reduce the threat of disease by improving basic biosecurity practice.

“Biosecurity certainly isn’t a new aspect in the day-to-day running of a dairy farm, but it is a fundamental pillar in preventing disease incidence,” said Alison Clark, dairy hygiene specialist for Progiene.

This goes on to have short and long-term benefits by improving animal welfare, reducing antimicrobial usage and protecting a farm’s financial and time resources.

 While 89% of dairy farmers surveyed had biosecurity protocols, only 8% said they were satisfied with them and only 31% reported them as being followed closely.

Disease pressure

Despite protocols being in place, 78% percent of respondents said their farms have had disease pressure in the last two years, reporting: 15% salmonella; 41% TB; 42% E.coli and 48% Johne’s disease.

“Bacterial pathogens like those found on the majority of dairy farms are highly transmissible, especially through faeces,” explained Clark.

TB, Johne’s and salmonella can survive for up to two weeks on the boots. When in slurry, crypto can survive upwards of 18 months and Johne’s can survive for up to a year.

As part of the survey, farmers were questioned on why current biosecurity protocols are being broken. For 54%, lack of time was the main reason, followed by 41% attributing it to lack of understanding by staff.

Mixing disinfectant

The survey results found that 75% of farms say they always follow instructions when mixing disinfectants, however, only 39% measure the chemical volume when mixing boot dip.

“Whether it is for boot dip or washing out calf pens, the chemical volume must be measured and mixed to the right ratio to actually be effective at killing pathogens,” said Clark.

Additionally, disinfectants must be chosen based on active ingredients that are officially approved to kill specific pathogens

“This is essential to ensure your disinfectant of choice is capable of preventing the spread of disease on your farm, since very few products on the market kill a broad spectrum of pathogens for diseases like TB, FMD, coccidiosis and Johne’s in one go,” she concluded.