Beef Cows

Beef Cow Biosecurity Overview

There is a real risk of disease in your beef cow herd. As a beef producer you are very aware of many of the common diseases that could potentially affect your animals. You have probably also noticed that diseases which exist in some groups of animals on your farm do not exist in other groups. For instance, newborn calves may have E. coli diarrhea, while older calves on the cow, "weaned calves, cows, and stocker/backgrounder animals do not become clinically ill due to E. coli.

Implementation of sound biosecurity procedures will reduce the chance of a disease being brought to the animals on your farm and will also reduce the chance of the spread of a disease among the different groups of animals within the farm.

A disease may be present on a neighbor's farm or on another farm in your county or in another state, and biosecurity is the only way to prevent the disease from entering your farm.

The diseases you intend to keep out of your farm can be spread in many different ways. These methods of disease transmission include:

  • Fecal to oral transmission.
  • Fomite transmission, by inanimate objects (such as footwear, gloves and tires) capable of carrying a pathogen (disease agent) from one animal to another.
  • Vector transmission, in which a living thing (such as a mosquito) carries a pathogen.
  • Nose-to-nose transmission, directly between animals.
  • Airborne transmission.

There is no way to tell if a pathogen is being carried by a visitor, animal or vehicle, so biosecurity rules must apply to all of them, all the time. For instance, a new animal coming to your farm may be carrying a disease without showing clinical signs. If this animal is introduced into your herd without an initial quarantine period, the disease may infect your herd.

It is important to know that animals showing signs of disease are usually only the "tip of the iceberg," as a much larger number of animals are probably infected even though they have not developed signs as yet. This is called the subclinical disease state.

Because biosecurity is an essential part of maintaining your herd's health as well as the profitability of your operation, an overall biosecurity plan for your farm is essential. Even if you practice some biosecurity measures now, this plan is needed to make your farm as safe from disease as possible.

This biosecurity plan will allow you to determine the measures needed to set up a comprehensive biosecurity program to protect your herd in the best way possible. Development of this plan involves all partners and employees, and it must be written down. Each year, the plan should be reviewed and updated to keep it current. For the plan to be effective, everyone must be able to understand it, use it, and enforce it. The plan should apply to everyone, every day.

To design your plan, first consider the ways that common diseases are spread. Include a standard health protocol which documents procedures necessary for maintaining animal health and husbandry, as well as specific methods to identify, separate and treat sick animals.

Below is a list of biosecurity measures that are categorized under general topics. These are best management practices, and this list can be used to develop your own biosecurity plan.

Management Strategies

Beef Biosecurity Content Source
Choueke, Esmond. 2015. Agroterrorism Prevention Reference Guide (FBI). Boca Publications Group Inc. [email protected]

Beef Cow Biosecurity Resources

Two brown cows, one with a white face, are looking ahead.
Beef Cattle Health & Care

Information from The Pennsylvania State University about a guide for developing a beef health program, as part of a beef herd management plan for your herd.

Learn More

A black angus cow looks ahead while standing in a field on a sunny day.
Beef Cattle Production

Extensive selection of topics on raising beef cattle, including nutrition, reproduction and herd health, from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Learn More

A herd of beef cows are moving through a dry field with cowboys on horses riding behind them.
Production for Small Farms

Includes health information and “Cow Talk,” a helpful cattle industry glossary of terms, from Oregon State University Extension.

Learn More

Two cows are standing in a field in the early morning with a heavy dew.
List of Bovine Diseases

A comprehensive list of bovine (cattle) diseases, with technical facts and images, from the Center for Food Security and Public Health.

Learn More

Secure Beef Supply logo
Secure Beef Supply Plan

Continuity planning for producers if a foot and mouth disease outbreak occurs in the U.S. Download a biosecurity plan template on this site.

Learn More

An emaciated cow infected with Johne's Disease.
Johne's Disease Facts

A fact sheet in PDF format about Johne's Disease, a chronic wasting bacterial infection of cattle, sheep and goats.

Learn More