Following protocols and being vigilant about animal health are key factors

 A disease outbreak in a herd or flock can be devastating on many fronts – economically, emotionally and environmentally. Producers who implement biosecurity measures, act quickly at signs of trouble and know what to look for can help protect their animals from transmittable diseases. 


First and foremost, livestock experts recommend following biosecurity protocols. “According to experts, one of the best disease prevention methods that we have is biosecurity,” Barry Whitworth, DVM, specialist with the Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension, explained. There are several pillars to biosecurity including sanitation, isolation, and traffic control. 

Sanitation requires keeping feed troughs, water sources and water troughs clean. As well as making sure manure doesn’t pile up. Dr. Sarah Reinkemeyer, DVM and epidemiologist with the Missouri Department of Agriculture, recommends producers also utilize a change of shoes or foot baths as they travel onto and off the farm. “Designate clothing and shoes for farm use; ensuring that you are not wearing clothes and footwear on your farm that were used at another farm,” Reinkemeyer advised. 


Experts recommend producers purchase livestock from a reliable single source when possible. Additionally, producers will want to make sure they know the animal’s vaccination status, deworming schedule, and if it’s been tested routinely for disease. “Another good step would be to have a quarantine pen or containment area for all new purchased additions for at least 30 days,” Reinkemeyer said.  “This way you can observe the new animals for any disease that could arise and impact your herd.” 

Following isolation practices also applies to animals already within the herd. If an animal is sick, then remove it from the rest of the herd for treatment and recovery. “If you have a sick animal in your herd, you should isolate that animal from the herd because that animal is most likely shedding some type of pathogen that’s making it sick, so you should isolate that animal until it’s well and keep it out of the herd,” Whitworth stated. 

Traffic Control

Another way to protect animals from transmittable diseases is to regulate who is visiting the farm. “This means monitoring who enters the areas where animals are,” Whitworth explained. “You basically control who enters your property and who doesn’t, because you don’t know where they’ve been, and you don’t know what pathogens they might have on them that they could give to your animals.”

Nutrition, Vaccination and Testing

In addition to following biosecurity measures, meeting animals’ nutritional needs, utilizing vaccinations, and testing for disease will help keep transmittable diseases at bay. Livestock specialists recommend maintaining animals in a good body condition which in turn gives them fuel to retain a healthy immune system. Vaccinating for diseases also provides protection. This includes vaccinating cattle for all respiratory and reproduction diseases.

Livestock specialists recommend testing and culling as a method to reduce disease in a herd or flock. 

“When we think of cattle and something like Johnes disease, we should test and positive cattle should be sent to slaughter because they are shedding that bacteria in their fecal material and it’s contaminating the premises of where you are,” Whitworth advised. “So, testing and finding animals that are positive for certain diseases and eliminating them from your herd is another way to prevent transmittable diseases.”


Keeping a close eye on the herd or flock will alert producers to the first signs of trouble. 

When producers observe an increase in mortality or sick and diseased animals, that’s a red flag a transmittable disease could be spreading through their operation. 

Diseases to watch out for vary from species to species and operation to operation.

 However, producers should be aware of some of the more prevalent diseases. In chicken flocks, avian influenza, Marek’s disease and Mycoplasma are all devastating diseases.

In cattle, producers will want to look out for Trichomoniasis. This means ensuring that all bulls 18 months of age or older test negative prior to movement to the farm. 

Other diseases include Johnes, anaplasmosis and Bovine Leukemia Virus (BLV). In sheep and goats be on the lookout for Ovine Progressive Pneumonia (OPP), Caprine Arthritis and Encephalitis (CAE), Caseous Lymphadenitis (CLA) and Johnes.



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