Most farms maintain some degree of everyday biosecurity, but many are adding another layer with enhanced measures.

Dr. Hayley Springer, Penn State Extension veterinarian, said enhanced biosecurity outlines the extra steps producers are prepared to take in the event of a foreign animal disease outbreak. While an everyday plan is developed and implemented from within the farm, preparation for enhanced biosecurity involves people outside the farm such as the state department of agriculture, dairy farm owners and managers and select employees. For dairy farms, the most important aspect is the farm’s adoption of the Secure Milk Supply (SMS) plan.

“An enhanced biosecurity plan is a heightened biosecurity plan, approved by state officials, to speed the acquisition of a permit in the face of a high-consequence animal disease outbreak,” said Springer. “We often refer to them as ‘continuity of business’ plans because speeding the acquisition of a permit can help the dairy continue to move milk even in the face of an outbreak.”

The threat of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) is the primary reason for developing an enhanced biosecurity plan. “Foot-and-mouth disease is transmitted by every method of disease transmission,” said Springer. “Controlling this disease requires a very comprehensive biosecurity program.”

She cautioned dairy farmers to not confuse the disease with hand, foot and mouth disease, which affects children.

“Foot-and-mouth disease is not zoonotic,” said Springer. “It does not cause disease in people, but it causes ulcerations in livestock, such as ulcers on soft hoof tissue, cows’ tongues and teat ends.” While FMD isn’t particularly lethal, it has a major impact on animal well-being.

All cloven-hoofed animals, including cattle, pigs, sheep and goats, are susceptible to FMD. Humans, dogs, cats, horses, birds and rodents are not affected, but they can spread the disease through secretions and/or manure.

Springer said FMD is present throughout the world, and there is progress in South America to end the disease there. However, even if South America becomes free of FMD, many other countries have some degree of the disease transmission among cattle. FMD is a risk to the U.S. because it’s so commonly found throughout the world and easy to transmit.

Enhanced biosecurity on dairy farms

Enhanced biosecurity outlines the extra steps producers are prepared to take in the event of a foreign animal disease outbreak. Photo by Sally Colby

If FMD is detected in the U.S., a highly organized response process will be initiated. Hold orders and standstill notices will be issued for regions and zones around known infected premises.

“They’ll establish a control area and set up quarantine and movement controls,” said Springer, “then eventually start to release animal movement through continuity of business plans that allow people to acquire permits to move milk and/or animals.”

Control areas include a pinpointed infected area at the center of disease surrounded by a designated “infected” zone and buffer zones farther out. “That’s usually up to about 10 miles in diameter,” said Springer. “In order to move anything out of the infected or control zone, you would need a permit.”

In the event of a large FMD outbreak, understanding where cattle have moved will be more difficult. “It’s highly likely USDA will greatly expand the buffer zone just to be on the safe side,” said Springer. “In more severe outbreaks, we might see big chunks of states incorporated into buffer zones.”

She added that it’s possible entire states will become buffer zones, which means no movement of animals or milk within the state.

A solid continuity of business plan will ensure a dairy farm is prepared for an outbreak. “We work through this with the Secure Milk Supply plan,” said Springer. “This program outlines what we need to do to prepare for outbreaks.” During an outbreak, managed movement will require a permit to move milk from the state of origin to destination.

Springer explained that farms without pre-planning will have to develop a biosecurity plan and have it approved to receive a permit. “Those with a biosecurity plan would still need to have it approved,” she said. “But those with an approved SMS plan will be at the front of the line to get permits, which allows the best continuity of business.”

The developers of the SMS plan realized that milk often leaves its state of origin, so it’s important for states to communicate with one another for a successful program. Springer said through 2017, there was a strong regional SMS for the Mid-Atlantic region as well as New England.

The SMS plan involves building a plan that can be implemented in the face of an outbreak. It begins with obtaining a premise ID, a precise farm location (using 911 or GPS), secondary locations, animals on site, animal housing and the presence of other businesses on the property. The plan identifies key personnel such as the biosecurity manager, a designated backup for that manager and individuals assisting with plan development.

The biosecurity manager receives yearly training in FMD biosecurity and is prepared to train and inform those entering the farm on biosecurity measures. This person must also make sure key personnel understand the biosecurity plan.

A major aspect of the SMS plan is determining the line of separation (LOS), which includes boundaries that separate a farm from the outside world. The LOS is unique to each farm and restricts entry to the operation in the face of disease outbreak. It involves maintaining records of all persons/vehicles crossing the LOS, establishes controlled access points where vehicles enter and exit, identifies the location of cleaning and disinfection stations for vehicles entering the farm premises and designates employee parking. The plan identifies specific farm needs such as milk truck movement on and off the farm, harvest and movement of livestock.

The SMS plan also includes emergency and contingency plans such as how to handle the inability to move milk and/or animals, semen and embryo movement, carcass disposal, manure management and rodent and wildlife control. Springer noted that some of these plans should already be part of a farm’s everyday biosecurity plan.

While the SMS manages milk movement, the Secure Beef Supply (SBS) manages cattle movement. Programs for sheep, pork and poultry are in place for those species. While cattle, sheep and swine programs are focused on FMD, the pork program is also focused on African swine fever and poultry is focused on highly pathogenic avian influenza.

Springer recommended working with the farm veterinarian to develop both everyday and enhanced biosecurity plans.

“The enhanced biosecurity plan requires some work to put in place,” said Springer, “but it puts your farm in a position to continue doing business if we are faced with a foot-and-mouth disease outbreak or other another foreign animal disease outbreak.”

by Sally Colby