La Biosecurity is the set of sanitary practices and procedures which help to prevent, reduce or eliminate dangers linked to the transmission of pathogenic agents that can cause substantial losses in sheep and goat farming. 

Biosecurity therefore makes it possible to restrict the introduction of these pathogenic agents into the production unit, in addition to their spreading to other production sites.

Main contamination factors in small ruminant breeding

Main contamination factors in small ruminant breeding

Surroundings and buildings, the initial sanitary barriers

Goat breeding Goat farming

Ensuring the health safety of small ruminants 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).

In order to offer the herd optimum health safety, a small ruminant farm should include:

  • A quarantine zone: this is the space where animals coming from outside are isolated from the rest of the farm for at least 30 days. This isolation allows new animals to become accustomed to the environment and prevents the spread of disease. Special attention is to be paid to animals originating from other production sites;
  • A sick bay: this is the isolation area for sick animals. Here they can be adequately cared for and thus avoid transmission of the disease to the remainder of the herd;
  • An unloading and loading dock: this is located outside the breeding zone so as to prevent the driver from coming into contact with the herd itself;
  • A sanitary airlock: this is the area reserved for washing hands and changing clothes before entering the sheep or goat farm.

The organisation of the flows offers a simple means of reducing pressure in terms of health on your goat or sheep farm. Do not cross “contaminated” circuits (outside personnel, effluents, etc.) with “clean” circuits (animals, breeders, etc.).

Agrotourism farms (lodges, bed and breakfasts, educational farms) must be on their guard and ask their health and biosecurity workers about the measures to be taken to ensure the safety of visitors and animals on site.

Sheep farming Sheep farming

Water: a “food” that should not be neglected

The drinking water intended for the small ruminants 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

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 sheep

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

1. Cleaning

This operation serves to give the surfaces a visually clean appearance. A detergent of foam type should be used to achieve 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.

The Cleaning & Disinfection programme is not always easy to apply in small ruminant breeding.

It must be performed at least once a year. In the event of a health situation (presence of pathogens on the farm), it is a practice that proves effective and worthwhile.

For batch operation, the Cleaning & Disinfection programme should be followed as soon as the animals leave.

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).

Application of disinfectant in foam form

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 protection 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-disinfection

  • Keep surfaces inside the building in good condition, not worn or cracked, easily accessible and well lit;
  • Dismantle tall 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 small ruminants 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;
  • Use the appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).