Biosecurity basics on dairy farm feedstuffs

Farm Forum

As producers develop biosecurity plans for their dairy operations, taking into consideration feeds, feeding systems and nutrition is critical. Part of a successful plan is to gain an understanding of how diseases are commonly transmitted.

Additionally, dairy producers need to ask “how contaminated water and feed can affect biosecurity and overall herd health?” (“Biosecurity of Dairy”, 2001). When looking at feeds we need to understand the critical control points for diseases that can be transmitted orally. The following chart demonstrates these risk areas (“Biosecurity of Dairy”, 2001).

If you are purchasing feed, there are several manufacturing / processes that help minimize the risk of disease introduction by feedstuffs. Some things you can do to ensure this is ask your supplier about their quality assurance programs, production practices, storage practices and facilities, equipment cleaning procedures, and mixing protocols.

On the farm you will need to follow these protocols (“Biosecurity of Dairy”, 2001):

· Do not use the same equipment to handle feed and manure.

· Clean feedbunks, storage areas, silos, mixing and delivery equipment on a periodic basis with high pressure washers and disinfectants.

· Examine feedstuffs for manure, foreign material, mold, and uniformity and remove contaminated feed.

· Pasteurize waste milk fed to calves.

· Clean waters’ regularly and disinfect. Clean water increases water intake and minimizes the spread of disease. Test water for coliforms and other microorganisms as well as mineral content, odor, and taste on a periodic basis.

· Clean and sanitize milk or milk replacer handling equipment after each use.

· Utilization of feed and ration preservatives may limit pathogen growth and/or spreading.

· Utilize best management practices when putting up forages (corn silage and hays) focusing on proper moisture, packing, covering, chopping length, and utilization of fermentation acids will decrease pathogen growth.

· Do not feed moldy or spoiled feeds.

· Evaluate and appropriately manage feed storage facilities that continuously produce moldy or spoiled feedstuffs.

· Rotate inventory to minimize pathogens in stored feeds.

· Clean feedbunks daily and remove feed refusals older than 24 hours to prevent spoilage. Feed refusals should be fed to older heifers to minimize disease transmission.

· Feedbunks should be smooth to minimize harboring of pathogens.

· Retain a copy of all feed labels; consult the label prior to utilization of any feedstuff.

· Medicated feeds should be properly stored and used. Make sure mixing equipment is properly flushed to prevent cross-contamination of feedstuffs.

· Feeds manufactured from animal proteins containing ruminant material must be labeled and cannot be fed to cattle or other ruminants.

· Have a feeding plan and performance goal for each group of livestock.

· Record feed intakes to monitor animal health and feed quality.

· Routinely test feeds, record and file feedstuff analysis along with rebalancing diets if necessary.

· Protect feeds in feeding areas from exposure to dead animal carcasses and manure. Possible disease exposure to Clostridia (i.e. Botulism), Salmonella, and E. coli infections often develop out of poor feedstuff management in this area.

· Prevent access to feeds and feedbunks by dogs, cats, wildlife, birds, and rodents. Keeping operations neat and clean, along with implementation of a control management plan will help minimize disease transmission from vermin. These animals should also not have access to dead animal or other tissue such as placentas.

· Feeding a balanced diet with adequate intake will promote immune function and disease resistance.


Bovine Alliance on Management and Nutrition. (2001). Biosecurity of Dairy Farm Feedstuffs. [Data File]. Retrieved from