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Biosecurity matters

Ironically the tiniest of organisms – bacteria, fungi and viruses – can inflict some of the greatest physical and economic harm to our livestock sectors.

Close to 100,000 cattle were culled in the first year alone of the Mycoplasma bovis eradication programme. In September 2019, Type 1 bursal disease virus (IBDV Type 1) was confirmed on two Otago hen farms which meant that meatbird producers could no longer send product to Australia although none of their own birds were affected. New diseases to New Zealand such as African swine fever, coronavirus  and bird flu could appear and spread on the back of a lack of knowledge and awareness.

With these examples in mind, good biosecurity should not be isolated to airport arrivals. The areas of best practice below can help to keep your own stock free from pests and diseases, in addition to helping safeguard the wider economy.

  1. Animal contact
    Animal contact is the main risk to stock so try to minimise the movement of stock in and out of your farm. A closed herd policy may not be possible but understanding the animal health status of the farm where stock will be purchased from is recommended. Quarantining new stock for at least 2 weeks can allow a proper health assessment to be made. Restrict movement on and off your block especially if disease has been identified, or is even suspected, on your farm or in your region. Animal Status Declarations (ASDs) should be completed when animals are moved between properties, to help track down animals if disease appears. This action applies to: cattle, deer, sheep, pigs, ostriches, emus, horses, alpacas and llamas.
  2. Pest deterrence
    Deter pests, rodents and birdlife by keeping the area around pens free of debris, spilled feed and standing water. Manage pests to control rodent and insect populations – especially in the dairy, rearing sheds, poultry pens and feed storage areas. Overall, free-range production systems do expose birds and pigs to a greater risk of infection carried by wild birds.
  3. Cleanliness
    Diseases can spread through people, vehicles and equipment so minimise traffic and clean and disinfect vehicles or equipment carefully before sharing with other properties or allowing contact to your stock. A survey of lifestyle farms by MPI reported only 45 percent of respondents performed some degree of cleaning and disinfecting as part of their biosecurity measures.1 Use bowls and troughs to prevent faecal contamination and clean and disinfect regularly.

NRM recommends the use of Virkon S — a broad-spectrum disinfectant that kills all viruses, bacteria and fungi known to affect animals. This is the preferred product employed overseas against African swine fever, coronavirus, IBVD and bird flu. This disinfectant:

  • Cleans and disinfects in one operation
  • Is a fast-acting pathogen that kills in 30 seconds – 2 minutes
  • Is safe for humans and to spray in the presence of animals
  • Is independently proven against hundreds of strains of viruses, bacteria, fungi and yeasts
  • MPI-approved against bovis
  • MAF-approved for exotic diseases

Anyone with farm animals or poultry should see themselves as part of the human food chain and recognise their role in food safety and sustainability.

1) Vink, D., Newitt, J., Van Andel, M., Rodwell, C. (2017) Hands off my lifestyle? Knowledge, attitudes and practices related to biosecurity and animal health surveillance in New Zealand’s smallholder sector.
Proceedings of the 3rd International Conference on Animal Health Surveillance, Rotorua, New Zealand.

Article supplied by Dr Rob Derrick, NRM
Lead Nutritionist.