Biosecurity – Guidelines For Farmers

Gray Beagley – DairyNZ

Protecting your farm

Biosecurity is about protecting your farm business from the effects of unwanted diseases, weeds, and pests. Think of it as a form of risk management to control what comes over the border onto your farm.

I am going to go over a process that we are calling the Biosecurity WOF. The document is on the DairyNZ website and a copy would have arrived in February’s Inside Dairy. This process was developed with input from farmers directly affected by the Mycoplasma bovis outbreak in Canterbury, and supported by veterinarians.

The good news is that you will probably be doing some of these things already, but haven’t thought about them in a biosecurity context.  Some of the suggestions will be relatively quick to implement and others will need some thought as to how you could integrate these into your farm system.

There are five key areas covered in the WOF: stock movements, farm access, farm layout, staff awareness, action plan.

1.     Stock movements

This is about the movement of stock onto the farm and between farms.

Note that the main way most animal diseases spread is by the movement of infected animals, and this is particularly so for Mycoplasma bovis.

Recommend use of pre-purchase check sheet prior to purchasing or leasing cattle – example on the website, or talk to your vet.

Keep newly arrived animals separate for at least 7 days – can check health status, do any procedures such as drench/vaccinate ensure documentation correct and up to date – about making sure they are ‘true to label’ and fit to mix with the herd.

If there are any health concerns, contact your veterinarian before you mix the animals with the herd.

Talk to the transporter – when was the truck last cleaned?  Will this be a mixed load? We are encouraging cleaning between farms, and not mixing animals from different farms. This will have some significant implications for the way stock are transported.

Talk to your grazier about how they are managing your animals. Are they mixed with animals from other farms? Will they share yards/equipment?

Complying with NAIT requirements is absolutely essential, this is non-negotiable, animals must be tagged and records must be completed in a timely fashion.

If your records are not up to date, then we suggest that you make it a priority to get them up to date.

2.     Access to the farm

This is about who comes on the farm and what equipment etc are they bringing with them. If they don’t need to come on keep them off, just minimises the risk

Biosecurity signs are being distributed with February’s Inside Dairy – make sure you use them.

Provide a place for visitors to clean and disinfect gear and PPE. Probably reasonable easy at the farm dairy, you have buckets, water, brushes, disinfectant. Remember to have water available if you are working away from the dairy, e.g. runoff. Cleaning and disinfecting is important, and remember that this is a 2 step process. Items must be clean before they are disinfected, and leave the disinfectant on so that it has time to work.

PPE should be dedicated to the farm, don’t allow farm staff to take their PPE to another farm.

Talk to contractors before they arrive so that they know you will be expecting them to arrive with clean machinery /equipment. There are guidelines available for cleaning contractor equipment and the link is in the Biosecurity WOF document.

If at all possible, limit the number of non-farm vehicles that drive across your farm. Provide transport if needed, or have whatever the visitor has come to see close to the shed if possible. If outside vehicles do have to drive over the farm make sure the wheels and wheel arches are clean before they do so, and clean them afterwards. Remember mud can also carry weed seeds.

3.     Farm layout

One main entry point makes controlling access to the farm easier. People will see your sign and be able to clean and disinfect their gear.

A suggestion from the South Canterbury farmers was to map out risk areas on the farm – helps visitors and staff understand your procedures and where they apply.

Take a map of the farm and mark out the biosecurity risk areas:

  • Green zones where no stock can enter such as the tanker track, house driveway and where visitors have relatively free access
  • Blue or amber zones – intermediate areas for incoming animals, the sick animal area etc where there is limited visitor access
  • Red zones – areas where stock graze and visitor access is strictly controlled

Keep sick animal separate in a dedicated area – easier to keep an eye on them, and may reduce the spread of disease.

Boundary fences – complete and secure to prevent animals mixing. Also must prevent nose-to-nose contact over the fence and a 2 m gap is recommended. Talk to your neighbour to co-ordinate grazing so you don’t have animals in adjacent paddocks at the same time, or use an outrigger to provide the 2 m separation.

Think about other risks where the integrity of biosecurity may be compromised – minimise these. Note that use of raw milk for feeding calves that is sourced from other farms is considered high risk for the spread of disease. In an ideal world calf milk would be pasteurised before feeding to calves, especially if sourced from another farm or farms.

4.     Biosecurity Awareness

It is important everyone knows and understands your requirements.

Include regular visitors in this e.g. farm owner if you are a sharemilker, these requirements need to be agreed and implemented by everyone. It is about protecting both businesses.

We recommend that you work through the process with your veterinarian and develop an action plan to address any risks you identify. Some actions will be quick to implement, some longer term and will need a bit more thinking about.

Report any concerns in a timely manner. Fortunately M. bovis is a slow moving disease, but if we had a fast moving disease, e.g. FMD, then a delay of a day to 2 would mean the disease would be well ahead of us and the managing the response would be much more difficult.


The emphasis is on what you do to protect your farm. DairyNZ, and others, can provide resources to guide you, and talk more widely to other entities across the farming sector, e.g. SSAA, but we can’t implement procedures on your farm. This is like an insurance policy, or a vaccination programme, it is to minimise risks and protect your business. It is also important that all farmers manage biosecurity appropriately on their farms as the health and wellbeing of the industry depends on the whole industry, not just a few farmers doing this well.

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