Biosecurity practices of beef cow-calf producers

Michael W. Sanderson DVM, MS, DACT1, David A. Dargatz DVM, PhD, DACT2, and Franklyn B. Garry DVM, MS, DACVIM3
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  • 1 Department of Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS 66506.
  • | 2 Centers for Epidemiology and Animal Health, USDA:Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service:Veterinary Services, Fort Collins, CO 80521.
  • | 3 Department of Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523.


Objective—To evaluate biosecurity practices of cowcalf producers.

Design—Cross-sectional survey.

Sample Population—2,713 cow-calf operations were used in phase 1 of the study, and 1,190 cow-calf operations were used in phase 2.

Procedure—Producers were contacted for a personal interview between Dec 30, 1996 and Feb 3, 1997 regarding their management practices. Noninstitutional operations with 1 or more beef cows were eligible to participate in the study. Producers who participated in the first phase of the study and who had ≥ 5 beef cows were requested to continue in the study and were contacted by a veterinarian or animal health technician who administered further questionnaires. All contacts for the second phase of the study were made between Mar 3, 1997 and Apr 30, 1997. Additional data on use of various vaccines, testing of imported cattle for brucellosis, Mycobacterium paratuberculosis, bovine viral diarrhea, and tuberculosis as well as potential for feed contamination were collected during the second phase of the study.

Results—Producers commonly engaged in management practices that increased risk of introducing disease to their cattle such as importing cattle, failing to quarantine imported cattle, and communal grazing. Producers inconsistently adjusted for the increased risk of their management practices by increasing the types of vaccines given, increasing the quarantine time or proportion of imported animals quarantined, or increasing testing for various diseases in imported animals.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Cow-calf herds are at risk for disease exposure from outside sources when cattle are introduced to the herd, and producers do not always adjust management practices such as vaccination schedules and quarantine procedures appropriately to minimize this risk. Veterinary involvement in education of producers regarding biosecurity risks and development of rational and economical biosecurity plans is needed. (J Am Vet Med Assoc 2000;217:185–189)