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Practical biosecurity for purchasing beef cattle

Employing biosecurity practices to reduce the risk of every day threats from endemic diseases and, just as importantly, from rare but costly exotic disease incursions.

By far the greatest threat of introducing disease is the purchase of cattle. Which diseases are important to you will depend upon your operation, the availability of low risk cattle and the market you are supplying. For instance, Johne’s disease (JD) may not be as an important to a trading operation compared to a breeding operation.

These threats can be reduced with simple practices that are easy to implement, inexpensive and the payoff is ongoing and cumulative.

The best approach to purchasing cattle can be broken down into three phases; pre-farm gate, receival and on-farm. It’s as much about stopping the spread as it is its entry to the farm.

Pre-farm gate is where we do all preliminary checks to make sure that the cattle we are buying are healthy and unlikely to be carrying any disease that may affect the rest of your herd.

Check the Cattle Health Declaration for information on disease status and previous treatments including vaccinations for clostridials and lepto (7 in 1), drenches.

Check all cattle look heathy. Pestivirus carrier animals are usually, but not always, poor doers and look less than healthy. They usually die before two years of age.

The Australian beef industry introduced a new, national approach to JD in cattle in 2016. Make sure you’re across the new risk profiling tools like Johne’s Beef Assurance Score (J-BAS) – the higher the score the lower the risk. If you’re buying bulls, pestivirus antigen negative is a must along with history of vibrio vaccination.

Receival is when we do all preventative treatments as cattle enter the farm.

All cattle get a quarantine drench to remove resistant worms with a mixture of three different actives and then allowed to clean out for 48-72 hours in the yards if possible.

If they have come from a fluke area then a combination drench with Triclabendazole should also be used. Any other health treatments that are required should be given now, such as vaccinations or trace element supplementation.

Once on-farm keep the new arrivals separate from the rest of the herd for a period of at least a month to ensure they are healthy.

The quarantine paddock should not allow nose to nose contact with the rest of the herd so should be separated with a laneway or shelter belt. At this stage any illness or death should be investigated by a vet.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of disease management recommendations.