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Biosecurity: International Travel & Visitor Considerations

Davis, Calif., (October 16, 2017) – Keeping diligent in your dairy’s biosecurity is important. Although the most feared threat is a fast-moving, viral foreign disease like Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD), the introduction of even common diseases to a dairy can be costly. For example, a study which reviewed BVD outbreaks, reported that losses ranged from $2,600 to more than $100,000 per outbreak. The most important cause of disease introduction remains new cow additions which are carrying hidden, sub-clinical pathogens. In one study of dairies in four California counties for instance, 33% of new arrivals carried the bovine leukemia virus and 16% of bulls had reproductive abnormalities. While not as significant a risk as these “trojan cows”, visitors to your dairy and even your own travel have the potential to introduce unwanted diseases. With respect to visitors, in general, the best way to limit chances of bringing in a new disease to your dairy is to limit visitor’s direct physical contact with animals, feeds and water. This eans no petting cows or calves and no handling feeds.

In addition, providing designated parking areas for off-farm vehicles, keeping visitor logs and escorting visitors while on-site are also good practices. For visitors coming from countries with known FMD outbreaks or history, additional precautions should be taken including requiring a “no animal contact” period of a minimum of five days prior to their visit, requiring hygiene steps (wearing laundered clothes & washed/new shoes and showering) be taken prior to their arrival and providing rubber boots or disposable plastic booties to be worn during their visit. Visitors should also not be allowed to carry personal items that cannot be disinfected, such as cameras, handbags or sunglasses, into areas where they may have direct contact with animals or feeds.

When you, your family members or employees travel to countries that harbor FMD, many of the same principals apply. Be sure your employees understand your biosecurity requirements and protocols for any off-farm animal contact and travel.

To learn more about protecting your farm from disease introduced through international travel and visitors, the California Department of Food and Agriculture has produced a fact sheet on foreign animal disease biosecurity and a brochure specifically addressing foreign visitors. For a more complete review of dairy biosecurity including an introductory video, case histories from California dairies and guidance on tailoring a biosecurity program to fit your needs and budget, visit the CDQAP Dairy Biosecurity & Your Bottom Line webpage.

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