Farm Hygiene - A good practice guide

Disease control in livestock

Despite vaccinations and medications being widely used, good hygiene is the basis for healthy and disease-free farming into the future. This is because vaccines are not able to prevent every disease. Animals cannot cope with too many vaccinations either, and perhaps in time, like many other medicines, there will be a shift away from vaccines in animals used for food.

Preventing diseases through proper hygiene is always going to be key in controlling the disease. You want to strive to have such good hygiene that the challenge from pathogens is below the threshold that will lead to disease.

12 steps for better farm hygiene

  1. Disinfect buildings thoroughly after depopulating the unit

  2. Keep buildings sanitised when it is in use by animals

  3. Keep the water sanitised

  4. Use foot dips and other hygiene protocols to try to protect animals, especially young animals, from disease during rearing

  5. When vehicles or equipment enter the farm, ensure that they are disinfected by spraying with disinfectant or using wheel dips

  6. Disinfect vehicles that carry animals after use

  7. Disinfect all feeding equipment

  8. Disinfect outside and around livestock areas

  9. Disinfect areas that animals have gone to the toilet in, or diseased animals have been in contact with

  10. In poultry housing, parts of the hatchery and eggs should be sanitised

  11. Keep vermin and other carriers of infection eliminated by whatever necessary means

  12. Disinfectant can be used to sanitise the air

What are the important qualities of a disinfectant or sanitiser?

  • Disinfectants should kill as wide a range of pathogens as possible

  • They should be effective in many conditions, especially in the presence of organic material

  • They should be effective in various environmental temperatures and conditions

  • Disinfectants should be easy to dilute and handle

  • An official body should approve the disinfectant or sanitiser

  • Dilution rates should be competitive

  • They should not only disinfect the area but also clean it to ensure proper sanitisation.

  • Some disinfectants can be used as a water sanitiser at very dilute levels to improve animal health.

7 practical considerations when disinfecting the farm

  1. Disinfectants are usually tested to make sure they are effective. Make sure you use one that is approved by the relevant animal health authority in your area

  2. Ensure that the disinfectant you are choosing actually kills the pathogen you want to get rid of. Tested and approved disinfectants will specify what they can kill.

  3. Remember that some disinfectants will be broad-spectrum and can be used in most circumstances. It is important to be aware of the type and capability of the disinfectant you are using.

  4. Ensure the disinfectant you are using is at the correct quantity and dilution rate as per the label

  5. If you are fighting a nasty pathogen, make sure that the disinfectant can kill it even at a high dilution rate so that it is powerful enough to eradicate it.

  6. If your floors or buildings are old or somewhat damaged, apply the disinfectant at twice the concentration and leave it to soak in for 24 hours to ensure that the disinfectant has enough time to penetrate any cracks or uneven surfaces.

  7. You can opt to swab the area to ensure that the site is clear of the pathogen in extreme cases.

What is the correct way to disinfect the farm between batches of Livestock?

Step 1

  • Depopulation. In an ideal world, the whole site should be cleared of all animals, especially in intensive settings or where there are many young animals.

Step 2

  • Take out all manure and dirt and bring it away from the farm

Step 3

  • When all dirt is taken out, clean out the buildings using vacuums or high-pressure hosing and detergent and disinfectant.

Step 4

  • As per the guidelines above, apply the correct disinfection at the correct concentration.

Step 5

  • Take all equipment outside to take apart and disinfect it outside

Step 6

  • Fully disinfect water and feed equipment and areas

Step 7

  • When disinfection is complete, fumigation with gas, disinfectant or fine particle spray can be carried out.

Step 8

  • Let the building dry and repopulate

What are the best types of disinfectants?

  1. Formaldehyde/glutaraldehyde mixes

  2. Strong acid-based materials like peracetic acid and hydrogen peroxide

  3. Synthetic phenols

Other factors to consider

In a survey by the UK Ministry of Agriculture, they found that it was important to reiterate the importance of the following:

  • Remember to leave the area to dry after disinfection before applying the next round of disinfectant.

  • Make sure vermin are under control as they can contribute to the risk of disease despite disinfection.

  • In times of persistent infections or where you want to be extremely cautious, use double doses or strengths to ensure a strong result because disinfectants are tested in the lab, which differs from real-world scenarios.

  • Don't use the same disinfectant time after time because resistance can build up. You want to rotate from one disinfectant to the next or change it up during disinfection with another type of disinfectant to cover all spectrums of activity if possible.