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Do you buy in livestock?

Every farm is different and has its own priorities and challenges when it comes to biosecurity and disease prevention, according to Dr Wendela Wapenaar, clinical associate professor at Nottingham University Vet School. 

She says: “The aim of good biosecurity is to maintain and improve herd health, which will ultimately lead to higher animal welfare, productivity and profitability.

Undoubtedly, the biggest disease threat to your own animals is bought-in stock. There is also a potential risk to new animals when being introduced to an established herd.

The best option is to run a closed herd, but for some people this is not an option. If you do buy in, it is vital to know the health status of the herd you are buying from.

This is of more value than testing individual animals, because for some diseases, for example Johne’s, the way pathogens behave means it is not always possible to detect the disease in an individual animal, but it may still be infected.

Most farmers know what they should be doing, but often there are barriers to making it happen. It is difficult to eradicate disease completely, however, it is possible to control and reduce the risk of many common farm animal diseases."


“It is important to look at risk factors and address them. These will vary from farm to farm because of different environments, management systems and current disease status.

The best person to advise you is your own vet, as they know what is happening on your farm and what the priorities are. Work with them on a herd health plan and put protocols in place when buying in stock. A comprehensive buying checklist is available from AHDB.

Before the introduction of purchased stock to your herd, they should spend a period in quarantine, ideally in separate buildings away from existing stock. If this is not possible, there should be a gap of at least three metres between animals, both inside and at grass, to prevent any nose-to-nose contact. During this time, they can be observed for any signs of disease and can undergo various tests, vaccinations and prophylactic treatments which have been agreed with your vet.

Case study - William Westacott, Home Farm, Kent

Disease? Not On My Farm! ambassador William Westacott buys in 40-50 in-calf heifers every spring from Germany. They are sourced from multiple farms within the Osnabruck region. They are from herds which are closely monitored for Johne’s disease. There is no BVD or IBR in that part of the country and vaccination against leptospirosis is not permitted.

Disease? Not On My Farm! ambassador William Westacott
Disease? Not On My Farm! ambassador William Westacott

He says: “On arrival, heifers are kept inside for two weeks, well away from the main herd. When they are turned out, they are at least 800 metres from other cattle and do not meet up with them until just before calving.

While in quarantine, they are vaccinated for BVD, IBR and leptospirosis. With 95% of the herd now German genetics, it could be argued vaccination is not necessary, but I feel it is responsible to keep vaccinating as although the farm is ring-fenced, disease could still come in from elsewhere.

The cost of vaccination is much less than the cost of a disease outbreak.

If we did have a breakdown, it would leave cattle susceptible to secondary problems, which may require antibiotic treatment, and this is something we are looking to reduce.”


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