Risk Management and Biosecurity: A Good Team

The first step in the risk management process is to identify potential risks and decide how to mitigate or respond. Once identified, simple precautions can reduce the likelihood of risks that you consider unacceptable.

Apply risk management principles to animal operations

Raising animals for pleasure or profit carries some risks for both the people involved and the animals under their care. Contact with animals is a very enjoyable activity, so it is worth the effort to reduce the risk involved.

Define the risks

  1. Facilities: Begin by evaluating the structures in which you keep your animals.
    • Are the stalls and pens big enough so the animals can move around and exercise?
    • Does the air smell fresh or is there an accumulation of manure?
    • Is there sufficient clean water available?
    • Can the animals get shelter from the cold and rain or snow?
    • Are the fences strong enough and do the gates close firmly?
  2. Welfare: Review how the animals are handled.  Every kind of animal is handled somewhat differently but there are basic principles to follow.
    • Is your equipment (halters, leads, brushes, buckets) suitable for the animals you have, and is it safe?
    • Is it the correct size for the animals you have?
    • Can it be cleaned so disease does not spread between animals?
    • Do the animals look relaxed, or are they anxious and stressed?
    • Are the daily chores done in a manner to keep the animals and the people safe and healthy?
    • Are animals fed sufficient, good quality food on a regular schedule?
  3. Health: Are the animals showing signs of disease, such as,
    • coughing,
    • diarrhea,
    • shortness of breath, or
    • dull and brittle haircoats?

Create a “risk list” which you can work on over time:

  • Identify the frequency and severity of each risk.
  • Prioritize the risks to address
  • Evaluate the way things are done to minimize the risk.
  • Make a plan on how to respond if an accident occurs. Plans made before an accident happens are far more thoughtful than ones made in the heat of the moment.
  • Once the overall response plan is created, it must be written down clearly, made available to all, and practiced together so it is effective.

Biosecurity practices reduce risk of infectious disease

Biosecurity practices reduce the risk of your animals getting infectious disease. In animals, there are steps that can be taken to prevent the introduction or spread of infectious disease.

Group biosecurity protocols into three basic topics. Those that have to do with isolation of the ill or potentially ill animals, those that build resistance to disease in the animals, and sanitation practices that decrease the spread of infectious agents between animals.

Basic Biosecurity Practices

  1. Isolation: The most likely way to introduce disease into your herd is through new animals brought onto your operation. Although they look healthy, they may be incubating an infectious disease. Keep them isolated from the home herd for two to four weeks to assure that they are healthy.
  2. Resistance: Resistance is the animal’s ability to not become sick in the face of exposure to a pathogen that causes disease. It can be enhanced by the nutritional, environmental, pharmacological, and immunological animal husbandry practices practiced on your farm.
  3. Sanitation: These are protocols followed on the farm to decrease infectious disease organisms. They include removing carrier animals, decreasing vectors that transmit disease, and cleaning fomites (inert objects like brushes, feed tubs, water buckets, equipment, building structures) that might harbor disease pathogens and transmit them between animals or people and animals.

It is important not to get so overwhelmed by what could be done that nothing is done.

After identifying the risks, take steps to avoid those of greatest priority.