Get proactive about cattle diseases before moving animals this fall

Photo via Canada Beef Inc.

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As fall quickly approaches, cattle producers should be mindful about preventing disease as they prepare to transport herds, bring in replacements, pull bulls, or make other adjustments for the changing seasons.

When focusing on the logistics of bringing cattle home from grazing pastures or outsourcing breeding stock, producers can also mitigate biosecurity risks by prioritizing certain processes and procedures, says Dr. Blake Balog, veterinarian at Bow Valley Veterinary Clinic in Brooks, Alta. He says that travelling to auction barns, 4-H shows, and borrowing trailers and other equipment can all pose a very real threat to herd health the proper precautions aren’t taken.

He and Daniel Pecoskie, DVM with Metzger Veterinary Services, out of Linwood, Ont., share some key points to keep the herd’s health top of mind.

First, it’s important to keep any newcomers separated from the rest of the herd for three weeks, says Pecoskie, including having a separate water source. He says this time frame is needed to monitor for transmissible diseases and things such as visible dermatitis, lameness, and ringworm. Isolation efforts should also be made for cattle coming in and out of community pastures. It’s advised to not chance it and keep any potentially unwell livestock out of community pastures. When bringing herds home, all animal groups should be separated from other herds for the same three- to four-week timeframe, again to monitor for disease.

Second, cleaning, sterilizing and equipment sharing protocols should be reviewed and reassessed as needed. Equipment such as portable scales, chutes and trailers all pose a risk of carrying disease and should be cleaned thoroughly before and after use. For medical equipment such as tubes, syringes and needles, extra caution should be taken, as well.

“With things like drenchers, tubes, bottles, you want to work clean to dirty, from the lowest risk to highest risk animals,” shares Balog. “Have a separate tube for scouring calves and a separate one for newborns.”

If different operations are sharing equipment such as chutes, it’s a good idea to have a discussion about vaccine protocols, at the very least. This makes both parties aware of what the other herd is protected against and what could still pose a threat.

These protocols along with being mindful of the animal flow of an operation, including being aware of pasture positioning, i.e. do they border any areas that could pose a threat, and also, water flow to make sure livestock are not coming in contract with any unfit or contaminated water, can all go a long way in disease prevention this fall.

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