Biosecurity for Livestock

— Written By Emily Cope
en Español

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Introducing new livestock into your herds or flocks can be an exciting time, but there is still an element of risk involved. Anytime new animals are introduced onto a farm biosecurity management should be practiced. Biosecurity means utilizing management practices to protect the health of livestock from transmission of infectious disease, parasites, and pests. Also, management practices are taken to reduce the introduction and spread of disease onto farms. It is important to remember biosecurity should be thought of as a gradient: more secure vs less secure as opposed to secure vs not secure. Having a biosecurity plan for your farm will be helpful for several reasons:

  1. Greater productivity of livestock
  2. Reduced risks
  3. Improved animal protection and health
  4. Early detection and management
  5. Reduced economic losses caused by production losses

Purchase of new animals is the MOST common biosecurity risk! Try to start with healthy animals. Animals purchased from sale barns and auctions likely have a higher exposure to other animals in temporary housing or during shipping transport. Some sick animals do not readily displays signs of illness immediately, so isolation will be key. This way if a disease is present you are controlling introduction and spread by allowing the disease to potentially manifest before exposing your entire herd or flock. Below are several recommendations for establishing a biosecurity plan for your farm:


  • Source from reputable producers with health records if possible
  • Inspect before you purchase – knowing healthy, normal behavior of livestock is helpful
  • Quarantine from existing herd/flock
    • Separate feed and water
    • 30 days of isolation is recommended 
    • If possible, separate by 100 feet distance from other livestock
    • Watch closely – eating, drinking, alert? 
    • Vaccinate with recommended vaccines
    • Healthy looking animals can still a problem – Parasites 

Traffic Control

  • Control access and entry onto your farm
  • Vehicles, people, and equipment can all be vectors or fomites for disease transmission
  • Keep gates and fences in good repair

Sanitation and Husbandry

  • Poor husbandry contributes to disease transmission
  • Establish and implement a herd health plan
  • Establish animals records
  • Keep feed and water free of contaminants
  • Regularly cleaning of animals and their environment
  • Regularly disinfecting and cleaning of equipment
  • Proper disposal of manure and dead animals

Another point…with Fall comes livestock show season. Remember to practice good biosecurity measures with your show animals too!

We cannot always prevent animals from becoming ill, but we can reduce disease introduction and transmission on our farms.