Biosecurity is the set of sanitary practices designed to limit introduction, circulation and persistence of contaminants(pathogens that cause diseases) in the production unit, in addition to their spreading to other production sites. In dairy cattle breeding, Biosecurity mainly involves management of the building and one of its aims is to reduce the use of antibiotics on the farm.

The main contamination factors in dairy cattle breeding

Main contamination factors in dairy cattle breeding

Surroundings and buildings, the initial sanitary barriers

Dairy cattle breeding Dairy cattle breeding

Ensuring the health safety of the animals first of all entails properly fitting out and designing the animals’ living areas, as well as guaranteeing their comfort, but also the cleanliness and atmosphere of the buildings (temperature, air quality, hygrometry and lighting).

The layout of the building and its immediate vicinity must be taken into account in preventing risks of contamination. The surroundings of the buildings must be clean and well maintained (no waste stored along the walls) to avoid harbouring pests (rodents, birds and insects).

Organisation of dairy farming is divided into two zones:

  • The living zone: this is where the animals spend their daily lives. It also includes the milking robot.
  • The work zone: these are the areas where there is interaction with the animals. The persons involved may not only be the farm personnel, but also people from outside such as the veterinary surgeon and technician, etc. All these individuals are potential vectors of pathogens towards the herd.

The living zones must be maintained daily (raking, strawing); it is the work zones that carry the greatest risk. They must therefore be subject to extensive health measures.

The organisation of the flows also offers a simple means of reducing pressure in terms of health on a farm. Work should be performed so as not to cross a “contaminated” circuit (everything originating from outside) with a “clean” circuit (the zone in which the animals circulat and live). The “contaminated” circuit will group together deliveries, trade, equipment (particularly if shared) and outside personnel. All these elements pose risks and must therefore be paid particular attention.

Cattle breeding (France)

Water: a “food” that should not be neglected

The drinking water intended for the dairy cattle is not subject to any legislation setting quality standards, unlike water for human consumption, which is required to fulfil potability criteria. The regulations solely stipulate that it should be of “adequate” quality, and to meet this requirement, a certain number of criteria are defined.

1. Bacteriological quality of the water

Although no established standard exists, it is recommended to test for the absence of microorganisms (total Coli, E. coli, streptococci, etc.) in 100 ml of water.

Contamination may already occur at the water catchment point, but also in the farm piping, particularly owing to the residual biofilm . In order to ascertain the bacteriological quality of the water, an analysis should be carried out (ideally at the airlock and at the end of the line). In the event of inadequate bacteriological quality, it is recommended that corrective measures be taken: checking the watertightness of the catchment point and implementing water disinfection (chlorine dioxide, hydrogen peroxide or chlorine).

2. Physical and chemical quality of the water

It is essential to be aware of the physical and chemical quality of the drinking water, as under certain circumstances, it may cause:

  • Unsuccessful disinfection of the water (e.g.: reduced efficacy of chlorination in alkaline or iron-rich water) ;
  • Problems related to inadequate watering of the animals (associated with the development of biofilm or with clogging of the piping).

A physical and chemical analysis of the water should be carried out at least once every 2 years.

3. Cleaning and disinfection of the piping

Purging under pressure is essential during the cleaning operations to achieve a sufficient mechanical flushing effect in order to wash out the impurities removed from the piping walls by the cleaning products.

Watering of cattle

The standard procedure for cleaning the inside of the pipes to remove as much biofilm as possible is as follows:

  • Filling the pipes with an alkaline solution, followed by a contact time of between 30 minutes and 1 hour;
  • Purging under pressure -> degreasing;
  • Filling of the pipes with a second acid solution, followed by the same contact time -> descaling;
  • Purging under pressure;
  • Disinfection by filling the pipes with a disinfectant solution;
  • Purging with clean water if necessary.

The essential Cleaning & Disinfection programme

In dairy farming, the Cleaning & Disinfection programme primarily concerns the milking parlour, the calving zone, the calf rearing area and the sick bay.

The breeding system does not in fact allow implementation of this programme on a regular basis.

In the event of a health situation, however, it is a practice that proves effective and worthwhile.

Special care must be taken in the calf rearing area in case of diarrhoea..

Disinfection of the premises combined with the animal health programme should make it possible to restore a good balance to the farm.

1. Cleaning

This operation serves to give the surfaces a visually clean appearance. A detergent of foam type should be used, which achieves a better scouring effect. 

Organic matter (straw, droppings) inhibits the action of the disinfectants. The success of disinfection is thus influenced by the thoroughness applied to the cleaning process.

A good washing beforehand with a suitable product already achieves 70 to 80% of the decontamination by means of the “flushing” effect.

Application of Deterstorm® NF to a feed fence (France)

2. Spray disinfection

This is the first disinfection operation after washing the building. It is usually carried out by spraying the previously cleaned surfaces.

There are risk factors in a badly performed spray disinfection:

  • Underdosing of the disinfectant;
  • Insufficient contact time;
  • Application to a contaminated surface.</.

The equipment used for decontamination

The use of a foam gun makes it easier to apply the disinfectant, provided that a foaming product is used. When applied in foam form, the disinfectant is more effective. Indeed, the foam allows the product to achieve better adhesion to the surface, thereby increasing the contact time and therefore the efficacy of the decontamination. The product employed must comply with the currently applicable legislation (mandatorily category TP3).

Safety first

For operator safety, protective measures are indispensable during operations involving Cleaning & Disinfection.

  • When using the high-pressure pump, an impervious suit, an anti-noise headset and waterproof boots should be worn.
  • When applying the products, more specific Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as chemical protective gloves, goggles, a suit impervious to chemicals (Type 4) and cartridge mask (ABEPK) are required. In case of doubt about the PPE to be worn, refer to section 8 of the Safety Data Sheet (SDS) of the chemical product used.

Advice to reduce the tediousness of Cleaning and Disinfection

  • Keep surfaces in good condition, not worn or cracked, easily accessible and well lit,
  • Dismantle all the movable breeding equipment that can be disassembled. Clean and disinfect it separately on a stabilised/concrete surface,
  • Start the cleaning & disinfection protocol as soon as the animals leave, before the surfaces dry;
  • Apply a detergent before scouring to facilitate dissolution of soiling,
  • Use a high flow rate pump (28-30 l/min) and work at low pressure,
  • Apply the products in foam form at the right dose to save time and water,
  • Carry out cleaning at least once a year,
  • Use the appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).