This article written by Dr. Reynold Bergen, BCRC Science Director, originally appeared in the August 2019 issue of Canadian Cattlemen magazine and is reprinted on the BCRC Blog with permission of the publisher.
“Biosecurity” often conjures up images of poultry or hog operations with truckers-report-at-the-gate signs, shower-in-and-out rules, and workers dressed in hazmat suits. The point of biosecurity practices is obviously to reduce the risk that disease causing microbes will enter or spread within high-health status herds or flocks.
It is much harder to implement high levels of biosecurity in beef operations. I’ve heard a cynic say that biosecurity only prevents diseases that are too big to fit between two strands of barbed wire. I stopped saying that when someone pointed out that most diseases aren’t coming through the fence. Most diseases are bought and paid for and come straight through an open gate along with the newly purchased cattle that are carrying them.
Let’s use Johne’s disease as an example. It’s relatively uncommon in Canadian beef herds but well worth avoiding due to its significant economic costs, animal welfare concerns and impact on the operation’s reputation. Cows with active Johne’s disease can’t absorb nutrients well. This results in chronic diarrhea and loss of body weight and body condition score. As with underfed cows, Johne’s disease results in later rebreeding, lighter calf weaning weights, and losing or culling cows before they have recouped their production costs. Continue reading