Close your farm borders to unwanted invaders

By Katie Milne, President Federated Farmers of New Zealand
11 January, 2018

Here are some New Year resolutions for all of us who work the land: Treat your farm as a biosecurity fortress, with its defences tightened to shut out pest and disease threats.
Confirmation this week that the bacterial cattle disease Mycoplasma bovis is present on a farm in the Ashburton area – bringing the number of infected properties around the nation to 14 – is the latest wake-up call.  All farms are at risk when it comes to pests and diseases.  Regarding Mycoplasma bovis, movement of infected animals is the main risk followed by animal to animal contact and transmission through milk and semen, but the disease can also be transferred directly on equipment such calving and AI equipment.
MPI staff work hard to knock out biosecurity threats at our airports and ports but they’re just the first line of defence.  You’re the fullback.  You need a game plan to repel weeds, bacteria and other harmful substances that would hurt your livelihood.
Now for those resolutions.
First up – are your NAIT records up to date?  Federated Farmers will be lobbying hard for early pick-up of recommendations to simplify NAIT compliance coming out of the National Animal Identification and Tracing review.  Every livestock farmer’s role is to accurately and entirely record stock numbers and movements on and off their property.  The M. bovis outbreak has shown us that strong NAIT compliance is a key factor in the efficiency of the biosecurity response.
Next, have an on-farm biosecurity plan and make sure your staff are on-board with it.  The concept of your farm as a ‘separate country’ with virtual borders is not over the top.  For example, if family members or farm visitors are recently returned from overseas, consider the risk they are carrying an unwanted substance on their footwear or in their suitcase.
Limit unnecessary movement of people, pets and vehicles onto your property, especially in areas where animals are kept. Define and, where appropriate, signpost ‘permitted access areas’ for farm visitors (e.g. vets, livestock agents, contractors) and delivery and pick-up vehicles to isolate these people from your farm operation.  In line with dairy company requirements keep stock and farm vehicles off your tanker track.  
Consider what is in place to thoroughly clean and disinfect all equipment moving across your farm’s ‘borders’ – clean in and clean out.
When visitors see that you have made sensible and thorough biosecurity precautions a key part of your daily farm routine, chances are they’ll think twice about what unwanted pests or diseases might be riding with them on their boots or vehicles.

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