Most attention to biosecurity risks seems to involve the swine industry, but a Kansas veterinarian and his colleagues believe the beef industry should be just as worried.
Mike Sanderson, a veterinarian at Kansas State University, said any location that sees animals coming in and out is at risk for biosecurity issues.
"You are in a business where you are bringing in a lot of animals and turning the inventory over time and again," he said. "But, there are a few practical things you can do to limit any risk."
With that in mind, Sanderson and other KSU researchers surveyed dozens of feedlots across Kansas to gauge biosecurity risk. Feedlot sizes ranged from 1,000 cattle to 125,000 head.
Survey results were used to develop computer software called The Biosecurity Risk and Impact Calculator. Funding for the project was provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Kansas Animal Health Department.
"We were looking at issues like how cattle are handled when they come to the feedlot, when they come in, and other things of that nature," Sanderson said.
"For example, we recommend cattle are brought in during daylight hours. That may be tough at times, but it really gives the feeder a chance to take a good look at the cattle and make sure that everything looks right."
The computer program asks producers about all feedlot practices including what Sanderson calls biocontainment.
"This involves the transfer of agents within the feedlot," he said. "Specifically, it looks at what occurs in the hospital pens. They need to be cleaned and disinfected frequently, and equipment needs to be washed and sanitized after every use," he said.
The program also looks at other features, including lighting, fencing and access to visitors. Sanderson adds that feedlot security is becoming a more important part of managements plans for producers.
"We also went in and assessed overall feedlot security," he said. "We looked at what the feedlots did to keep people out that might be intent on doing some damage or even letting the animals out.
Keeping PETA out
"With what we've seen from PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) and other groups, I think all feedlots need to have a plan that could help keep these people out."
Sanderson said once the software identifies any areas of potential risk, producers are encouraged to consult with their veterinarians to develop a biosecurity plan. "This does not get into the financial aspects of developing a biosecurity plan, but what it does is identify things that could potentially cause harm to the operation," he said. "It's like any other business when you are dealing with risk analysis. You have to be able to take a good look and make a sound business decision."