Keep Germs Out Of Your Expanding Cow Herd (Also Known as Biosecurity)

Keep Germs Out Of Your Expanding Cow Herd (Also Known as Biosecurity)

December 2014

photo - young heifers in dry pasture
What can you do to protect your herd from outside diseases brought in by new cattle? Photo courtesy of Troy Walz, Nebraska Extension.

As cattle prices go up, more and more producers are thinking of increasing their herd size. For many, this increase comes from outside sources – like a neighbor, sale barn, or video auction.

What can you do to protect your herd from outside diseases brought in by new cattle? Any time animals are co-mingled there is an increased risk of introducing disease into the herd or group of animals. While this risk cannot be totally eliminated, there are steps that can be taken to reduce the amount of risk and minimize the threat.

Start with your local veterinarian to discuss your concerns and needs.

The following are general recommendations that should be considered in developing a plan when contemplating expansion of the herd, according to Richard Randle, Nebraska Extension Beef Veterinarian.

Assess your herd first

Before you bring animals into your herd from another source, you should work with your veterinarian to assess the status of your own herd. Is your vaccination protocol adequate and current? Consider diseases like IBR, BVD, leptospirosis, Brucellosis, and trichomoniasis.

Isolate New Arrivals

New animals should be isolated from the existing herd for at least 30 days. During this time, close observation should be made to detect any type of health problem early.

The isolation facility should have no fence line contact with the existing herd. These animals should be observed, fed, and handled last.

This isolation period also provides time to perform diagnostic testing and to administer health products such as vaccines, dewormers, and external parasite control to the animals before joining the herd. These new animals should receive the same vaccination protocol as your current herd paying attention to follow label directions on the vaccines.

Appropriate diagnostic testing

While the new animals are isolated, you can test them for potential diseases. A good example of this is testing for persistently infected (PI) BVD animals. Current tests for PI animals are reliable but if appropriate testing in not performed, the risk is still present. Suppose you buy a group of pregnant females and test them for PI BVD. The test results are all negative. You can be pretty confident none of the females are persistently infected. However, you still do not know the status of the fetus the pregnant female is carrying. In this case, these animals would need to be kept separate from the rest of the herd until they have calved and the calves tested.

An ounce of prevention goes a long way to save your herd from potential diseases and infections! Taking the time to work with your veterinarian on a plan ahead of time is an important first step.

Richard Randle
Nebraska Extension Beef Veterinarian

Bethany Johnston
Nebraska Extension Educator