Preventing disease on the farm

Two cows eating.
Image by vanvulpenveevoer from Pixabay.

Wild animals, birds, water, feed, new animals and visitors can all bring infection to the farm with them. Our aim is to pinpoint and eliminate as many potential infections as possible on every farm, and to isolate infections which do occur so that they do not become disease outbreaks.

Once infection occurs on a farm, management practices play a key role in preventing outbreaks. Animals, like people, often get sick when they are stressed. This means that maternity and hospital pens are epicenters for infections. Overcrowding of these pens can contribute to disease outbreaks, as can factors such as nutrition and shelter. Plenty of shade and water during hot spells can help keep a herd healthy.

Farm management practices are very important in preventing infection as well as treating it. Bird and rodent control, clean feed and water, hand and boot washing facilities, and limited access for contaminated vehicles can help keep pathogens off the farm.


Many dairies feed a total mixed ration, or TMR, which consists of several different component feeds such as grain, hay, and silage. These are mixed with water and supplements, and fed to cattle in bunks or alleys.

Bacteria can be introduced to the TMR in numerous ways. Birds and wild animals defecate on feed storage piles. Tractors used to scrape manure may still have traces of manure when they deliver feed. And component feeds are sometimes contaminated before they even arrive at the farm, perhaps from dirty transport vehicles. Steps can be taken to avoid contamination and proliferation of bacteria in the TMR.

Eliminate Contamination of Feed

Eliminate nesting areas for birds, especially around feed storage sites. Clean vehicle tires when they pass between animal storage areas and feed storage areas. Any time a vehicle comes in contact with manure, keep it out of feeding and feed storage areas. Clean the mixing truck regularly. Use a sufficient amount of silage in the TMR.

Other Precautions

  • Chlorinate water.
  • Quarantine sick animals.
  • Do not overcrowd animals.
  • Eliminate carrier animals.