Disease specific biosecurity - part 1

General biosecurity recommendations for different disease transmission scenarios are discussed.

Now that the British Foot and Mouth Disease outbreak is behind us, it is easy for those of us in FMD-free areas to slip back into bad habits. But take a moment to consider how many other diseases are endemic in your area. Then think about how devastating an outbreak of any one of these diseases could be.

For producers in the United States, contagious disease threats include brucellosis, Type II BVD, coronavirus, E. coli, hairy heel warts, IBR, Johne’s disease (paratuberculosis), leukosis, mycoplasma mastitis, Neospora, leptospirosis, Pasteurella haemolytica, rotavirus, salmonellosis, Staph. aureus, Strep. agalactiae, trichomoniasis, tuberculosis, vibriosis (Campylobacter). If you don’t have these diseases in your herd, proper biosecurity procedures will keep them out. If you are working to eradicate these problems from your herd, a strong biosecurity program will compliment eradication efforts and prevent re-introduction.

The Biosecurity module at Milkproduction.com contains information and assessment tools geared towards general biosecurity issues, as well as specific links to FMD resource sites. In part 1 of this article, general biosecurity recommendations for different transmission scenarios will be discussed. The subsequent articles will discuss specific considerations to protect herds from avoidable exposure to economically important diseases.

Unfortunately, many biosecurity plans start and end with obvious farm visitors. Touring farmers and agribusiness personnel are the usual control points. Purchased cows, heifers, and breeding bulls are also well recognized as potential disease carriers. To truly protect your herd from disease risks requires going beyond the obvious.

Keep in mind that ANYONE and ANYTHING that visits your farm could expose your animals to disease. The areas that many people overlook are the “invisible” visitors; cows returning from shows or exhibitions, heifers returning from a heifer grower or pasture, dry cows returning from summer pasture, wildlife, pests, free-roaming or farm-based cats and dogs, employees who have animals at home, and the neighbor who stops in to visit and ends up helping to move cows or deliver a calf.

The first consideration in developing a biosecurity plan for your farm is potential avenues of exposure to disease organisms. The table below lists a variety of infectious diseases, their route of transmission and some key control points. The next consideration is which diseases are present in your area. Don’t forget that your heifer grower, bull source, or satellite herd might have different disease and/or exposure risks.

Another point to consider is the issue of visitors from countries that have ongoing FMD or other disease problems that aren’t present in your area. This includes some countries with strong dairy industries, like Saudi Arabia and parts of South America. Frequently, producers and agribusiness from these countries travel to learn about other management systems or to purchase breeding stock. Just because a particular disease isn’t a problem in your area, doesn’t mean your cattle can’t be exposed to it.

Transmission Method


Potential Exposure Sites



Pasteurella haemolytica

New or returning cows

Pastures which adjoin those of another herd

Cattle shows



Strep. agalactiae

Mycoplasma mastitis

Milking parlors – yours or at cattle shows

Poor sanitation during mastitis or dry cow treatment



Leukosis Needles

Obstetrical equipment

Surgical equipment


Johne’s disease

New born calves which remain with mature cows

Equipment or personnel tracking manure into feed bunks, feed storage, or silage storage.

Cow to cow





Vibriosis (Campylobacter)



Hairy heel warts


E. coli Rotavirus


New cow

Infected cows within the herds in herd

Heifers returning to herd

Breeding with bulls

AI equipment/technique


Obstetrical equipment

Surgical equipment

Hoof trimming equipment
Cattle trailers

Contact with other animals

 Neospora (dogs, coyotes)

Brucellosis (deer, elk, bison)

Salmonellosis (birds, rodents)

E. coli (many)


Remote dry lots

Domestic animals in barns or pastures

Wildlife entering barns or feed storage

Feed mill biosecurity

Use the above information to decide which diseases and which exposure risks apply to your herd, check the materials in the Milkproduction.com Biosecurity module, and start finetuning your biosecurity plan now.


Joanne Siciliano-Jones

Joanne Siciliano-Jones
5 articles

Dr. Siciliano-Jones serves as president of FARME Institute, in Homer, New York.

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F.A.R.M.E. Institute

F.A.R.M.E. Institute

FARME Institute's goal is to provide top quality, client-oriented, independent and confidential research and product development in ruminant nutrition.

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