August 14, 2017

Should You Implement a BioAwareism Plan?

 |  By: Alison Wedig

Farmers care about their animals and take precautions to ensure cow safety, comfort, and health. This includes emphasis on biosecurity to protect the herd from disease transmission outside the dairy.

But biosecurity is just one part of mitigating disease transmission. There are steps to take beyond biosecurity to take better control and decrease the risks of diseases entering the farm.

BioAwareism is a term used to describe an integrated approach to managing disease challenges. According to Michael Bolton, D.V.M., Technical Services Manager, Merck Animal Health there are three bioawareism components that can be interwoven in a strategy to manage animal health:

  • Biosecurity: threats from outside the dairy
  • Biocontainment: disinfection and hygiene
  • Prevention: vaccination, colostrum management, etc.

“BioAwareism is increasingly important for dairy producers as retailers and consumers need reassurance that dairy producers are working hard to keep disease pressure low in order to keep all food as safe as possible,” reports Danelle Bickett-Weddle, DVM, with the Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine.

A holistic approach
“A cow cannot distinguish where a disease or infection comes from,” Bolton says. “We must think about Bioawareism as a holistic approach to managing pathogens on your farm.”

While some pathogens might not be detrimental diseases, Bickett-Weddle says preventing all types of exposure levels is important. “In the dairy industry, we have been fortunate to not have any bad diseases that cause a lot of death or high production losses, like some of the partners in the swine or poultry industry. Yet there are still diseases out there that rob our production every day,” she says. “Therefore, the focus of biosecurity is to target the diseases we live with each day on the farm and do a better job managing them.”

BioAwareism Factors:

Many factors including farm size, biosecurity managers, and protocols come into play in order to implement BioAwareism onto a farm. Knowing where to start is often the hardest part.

“Every dairy should start with their herd veterinarian who they have built a relationship with,” Bolton says. “An on-farm veterinarian is familiar with the specific operation and how diseases are transmitted, which allows a better understanding of the contamination risks.”

The producer’s risk tolerance can be another factor. For instance, some producers may have high-end show cows that need extra attention as they travel across the country and exposed to other diseases. Some farms raise heifers on another farm and need to worry about the disease pressures as those animals transition back into the herd.

The veterinarian will be able to establish protocols for farm employees to follow in order to address these needs and determine the best plan to eliminate disease infiltration.

Should you designate a BioAwaresim Manager?

Today many dairies have managers that focus on the herd, reproduction, and nutrition needs as it allows a worker to specialize their knowledge. Therefore, having someone in charge of biosecurity allows more to be accomplished and protocols to be written specifically for each individual farm.

A biosecurity manager is ideally someone who knows the farm well. This knowledge would allow them to understand the three important factors that Bolton focuses on within biosecurity, including bringing animals onto the farm, farm access points, and animal immune status.

Ideally, a BioAwareism program should start with a veterinarian’s counsel to create a plan. An employee may be given more responsibilities, but that person should have in-depth understanding of all biosecurity aspects of the operation.  

Allowing someone to focus on biosecurity will allow protocols and plans to be written, and more importantly, put someone in charge who can help prevent disease challenges, ensuring the health of the cattle on the operation.

“One of the most important aspects of the BioAwareism plan is to address the producer’s concerns. Starting with the specific disease and management challenges of their operation and designing the BioAwareism plan accordingly will address these issues,” says Bickett-Weddle.