Acreage eNews- March 2011
- Feeding Senior Dogs
- Nutrition Labeling for Raw Meat, Poultry Products Begins January 1, 2012
- In The News: Fluoride in Drinking Water
- Don't Be in a Hurry for Spring Lawn Care
- March-- A Great Time for Tree Pruning
- Planting Fruit Trees in Nebraska
- NDA Adds Japanese Knotweed and Giant Knotweed to Noxious Weed List
- Acreage Biosecurity
For a complete listing, visit the
Upcoming Events Calendar
- Northeast Nebraska Master Gardener Plant Fair, Norfolk, NE, May 3-4
- Omaha Men's Garden Club Plant Sale, Omaha, NE, May 3
- Recipe to Reality, Lincoln, NE, May 10
- NSA Open House & Plant Sale, Lincoln, NE, Every Friday afternoon May 17-June 14
- Small Scale Wind and Solar Systems Field Tour, Concorde, NE, May 18
- ATV Training, Ithaca, NE, May 29 & 30
- Beekeeping- Queen Rearing Workshop, Ithaca, NE, June 13-15
- Recipe to Reality, Lincoln, NE, August 16
Feeding Senior Dogs
By Lisa Karr-Lilienthal, UNL Extension
As dogs age, their nutrient needs change too. Dog owners should pay close attention to changes in their dog and consult with their veterinarian about signs of aging. While nutrient requirements change with aging, a commercial pet food designed for senior dogs will be formulated with these changes in mind to ensure proper health and longevity for older dogs. Regular veterinary visits, exercise, and mental stimulation are all key to maintaining proper health throughout your dog’s latter years.
The age at which a dog is considered senior depends in part on the breed. Smaller breeds tend to have longer life spans and, therefore, are not considered senior until a slightly older age. Large- and giant-breed dogs have shortened life spans and are considered seniors earlier. For example, a Great Dane has an average life span of nine to 10 years and would be senior at 6 years of age, while a Lhasa Apso has an average life span of 15 years and is considered senior at 11 years of age. A general rule is that a dog in the last third of its life span is considered senior.
Many nutritionists recommend switching to a senior diet at 7 years of age. This is the age at which many average-sized dogs would be considered senior and the age at which we begin to see age-related changes in the metabolism and activity level of the dog. As animals age, we see both obvious signs of aging as well as less obvious signs. The obvious external signs include graying hair coat, slowing movements, decreased activity, changes in body condition, and a decrease in the sensitivity of their senses like hearing, sight, and smell.
In addition, for some animals there are internal changes that occur in organ function and there may be decreases in liver, kidney, and gastrointestinal function. There may also be decreases in immune system responsiveness. Senior dogs should have regular veterinary visits every six months to track any age-related changes in organ function or overall health. By having regular veterinary visits, any changes can be identified early and this can help in treating them more effectively. Your veterinarian may run blood work to determine organ function in your pet. Often age-related decreases in kidney or liver function are not apparent to the owner until significant damage may have already occurred. Early detection is key to decreasing the symptoms and improving the prognosis for your dog.
When feeding geriatric or senior pets, there are specific goals that we should consider. A diet for senior animals should be designed to enhance the animal’s quality of life, delay the onset of age-related diseases, and hopefully extend the animal’s life expectancy. In addition, senior dogs are more prone to disease and joint damage. Diets for senior dogs should aim to delay the onset of disease or slow its progression. Finally, a diet should maintain the animal at an optimal weight. The goal for calorie intake for senior dogs should be around 95 kcal/kg0.75, the energy requirement of an inactive pet dog. Pet food companies design senior dog foods with these goals in mind so choosing a diet specifically for a senior dog will give you the peace of mind that the diet will best meet your dog’s changing needs.
In general, most senior dogs are less active than younger dogs, causing their calorie need to decrease. Typically, the decrease in energy needs is about 20%. Senior dog foods should be lower in calories to prevent obesity in the senior dog population. As dog’s age, their total body fat tends to increase. Increases in body fat can lead to obesity which adds increased stress on internal organs such as the heart and lungs which may already be compromised with aging. Maintaining ideal body weight is particularly important as many senior dogs may begin to see age-related joint problems such as arthritis and excess weight can increase the effects of this disease. In addition, senior dogs should be exercised regularly. Exercise can delay the onset of age related symptoms and can aid in maintaining an ideal body weight.
The total body protein of dogs decreases with age due to muscle mass loss. In order to help prevent this, the diet should contain ample amounts of available protein and the animal should be kept active if possible. Protein levels in the diet should be high enough to replenish muscle mass and loss of protein stores in the body. If the dietary protein level is too high, it can add stress on the dog’s kidneys if they begin to lose function with age. Your veterinarian should monitor your dog’s kidney function. If loses in kidney function are noted, your veterinarian may recommend a lowered protein diet.
Other nutrients to consider in the diet of geriatric dogs include some specific vitamins and minerals. It may be beneficial to decrease the levels of sodium (Na) and potassium (K) in the diet. While heart disease develops differently in dogs than in humans, some data suggests limiting Na and K may decrease some health risks. Additional zinc (Zn) above the requirement has been shown to improve the immune response in animals. This may benefit geriatric animals with decreased immune capacity.
Mental cognition can decrease with aging in dogs. In order to limit losses in cognition, dogs continued to be mentally stimulated throughout their life. This can be done through continued training, exercise, and providing toys that are mentally challenging. Dietary changes are made in commercial senior dog foods that can assist with maintaining brain function as well. Increased levels of antioxidant vitamins A, C, and E can help protect against oxidative damage, which increases with aging. Omega-3 fatty acids can assist with maintaining cognitive function as well.
Nutrient needs change with aging in the dog. Paying particular attention to body condition score of the animal may help to prevent or decrease the onset of age-related diseases. Choosing a high quality diet designed for senior dogs may help to improve the quality of life in the aged dog. Maintain routine visits with your veterinarian once throughout his life to spot changes related to aging early. Exercise and continuing activities that stimulate your dog both physically and mentally help to increase your dog’s quality of life.
Nutrition Labeling for Raw Meat, Poultry Products Begins January 1, 2012
By Lindsay Chichester, UNL Extension Educator
In December 2010, you may have heard that nutrition labels were going to be required for meat products. Well I have sorted through the rules and regulations to bring you the facts and details.
As many of you may know, the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act (NLEA) of 1990 required nutrition labeling of most foods regulated by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration). Now the FSIS (Food Safety and Inspection Service) has amended the federal meat and poultry products inspection regulations to require labeling of major meat cuts and ground meat products (with and without seasoning). The current regulations require nutrition labels on the packages of all multi-ingredient and heat processed meat and poultry products.
The USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) feels that as part of the continuing efforts to educate consumers about diets and nutrition, the labeling of meat is a step forward to helping them make healthy diet choices. The nutrition facts will either be made available at the Point of Purchase (POP) or they will be included on the label for major meat cuts. For ground meat products, the label has to be affixed to the product package. Product packages that do not bear a label will be considered “misbranded”. FSIS also stated that products without nutrition labeling information of these products, they will be considered misleading and false because it does not provide consumers with sufficient information.
On the label for the major meat cuts, consumers are given a rough indication of the fat content; but due to the fact there is so much variability within a product, the specific nutrient information and the serving size per container will not be available. Manufacturers will instead use data from the USDA’s National Nutrient Data Bank or the USDA’s National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference. Meaning all skinless chicken breasts will have similar nutrition information, all chuck roasts will have similar nutritional data, it will not be specific to each individual piece of meat – it will be an average. On the other hand, FSIS recognizes that it is easier to obtain the nutrition information for ground products; all ground or chopped product will indicate the precise fat content.
Small businesses are exempt from the ground meat rules if the products are produced at a facility that employees less than 500 persons and produces no more than 100,000 pounds of a particular product per year. Small businesses will still be expected to provide nutrient information for major cuts of meat at the POP (note: FSIS is making POP materials available on the internet free of charge).
Start looking for the nutrient information on major meat cuts and ground meat products – they will be coming to stores near you!
In the News: Fluoride in Drinking Water
By Sharon Skipton, UNL Extension Educator with Bruce Dvorak and Jan Hygnstrom, UNL Biological Systems Engineering
Fluoride in drinking water has been in the news following a recent announcement from the US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA.) The announcement has two major elements, one from each agency. This article will focus on the DHHS announcement.
Fluoride guidelines for dental health benefits were established by the U.S. Public Health Service (currently the DHHS) in the 1960s. The recommended concentration of fluoride in drinking water for dental benefits is currently within a range of 0.7 to 1.2 mg/l. In response to new research-based information, the DHHS proposes to change their recommendation. Rather than a range, they would recommend a concentration of 0.7 mg/l, which is currently the low end of the recommended range.
Early recommendations assumed all fluoride came from drinking water. Today, children ingest fluoride from toothpaste (when swallowed), food (including some milk, fruit juice, and powdered formula), and other sources. Children also may receive fluoride supplements and fluoride treatments. New research in the United States and Canada explored the impact of these additional sources of fluoride, along with concentrations recommended in drinking water.
While optimum levels of fluoride are beneficial to dental health, excessive amounts can cause problems. Excess fluoride ingestion can lead to fluorosis (mottling of teeth). Dental fluorosis occurs during tooth formation and is visible when teeth come in. The effects can be mild to severe, ranging from barely perceptible white striations or specks on teeth to permanent brown to brownish-gray stains on teeth. Pitting can occur in severe cases.
New studies and observation indicated some dental fluorosis was being seen in the United States, mostly in its mild form, which was described as “barely visible lacy-white markings or spots” on teeth. Therefore, it is believed that the lower concentration of fluoride in drinking water is appropriate at this time to reduce the occurrence of dental fluorosis.
How does this apply to your private drinking water supply? Small amounts of naturally-occurring fluoride are present in all water sources. A study of Nebraska’s groundwater reported a range of fluoride concentrations from less than 0.1 mg/l to 2.6 mg/l with an average of 0.3 mg/l (Headrick, 1996). Water quality in private wells is not regulated in Nebraska by federal or state statutes, so testing your private water supply is not required. However, you should not assume there is no fluoride in your water. If you want to know the concentration of fluoride in your private water supply, you will need to have the water tested. The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (NDHHS) approves laboratories to conduct drinking water analysis. For information on laboratories approved to test for fluoride, contact NDHHS at 402-471-2122.
The second part of the announcement dealt with a possible change in how the EPA regulates fluoride in public water supplies. This was not covered, since EPA drinking water regulations do not apply to private drinking water supplies.
Don't Be in a Hurry For Spring Lawn Care
By John Fech, UNL Extension Educator
It's been a particularly cold and snowy winter. With the onset of warm weather in early March, many Acreage owners are often tempted to fertilize and seed lawns….or do something, just about anything outside on their lawns. It's a normal human response to being cooped up all winter. The message from experts such as Michael Agnew, formerly with Iowa State University is to realize that cold weather will return off and on throughout March and the early part of April, putting lawn care practices on hold. March is much too early to either fertilize or control weeds in the lawn.
Fertilizing lawns in late winter is normally not beneficial to the turfgrass plants. Early fertilization can encourage lush growth during periods when cold temperature stress can still occur. Generally, fertilizers are best applied after April 15. In fact, use the holiday schedule to remind yourself of good times to fertilize…Arbor Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day and Veterans Day.
Select fertilizers that contain slow release nitrogen sources. These will be listed on the fertilizer bag as sulfur-coated urea, methylene urea, IBDU, triazone, or as a natural organic fertilizer. Do not apply more than 1 pound of actual nitrogen per 1,000 square feet. For example, 5 pounds of a 20-5-10 fertilizer are needed to apply 1 pound of actual nitrogen.
Be sure to remove any fertilizer that fell on sidewalks or driveways. Fertilizers will run off smooth surfaces very rapidly, while minimal runoff will occur on turfgrass areas. This is an important lawn maintenance practice that can help protect our water resources.
Seeding a new lawn in the spring is possible if done properly. First, the site needs to be evaluated for the need of soil amendments. Conduct a soil test and incorporate the needed soil amendments.
Second, the site should be graded to slope away from buildings. Leaving depressions in the lawn will only create future problems.
Third, select the right seed for the site. If you plan on having a lawn for show, select a seed mix containing improved varieties of Kentucky bluegrass. Avoid cultivars like 'Park' or 'Nugget' in these situations. If the site is shady, avoid Kentucky bluegrass and use either a fine leaf fescue or tall fescue. (Never mix the fine leaf fescues and tall fescue.)
Fourth, seed the area according to proper seeding rates. Seed is applied on a 1,000 square foot basis. For example, sow 1.5 to 2 pounds of Kentucky bluegrass, 6 - 9 pounds of tall fescue, and 3 pounds of fine leaf fescue seed per 1,000 square feet. Seed will not germinate until soil temperatures are close to 55oF. Therefore, delay seeding until later in April.
Fifth, apply a starter fertilizer that contains Tupersan. Tupersan will help prevent crabgrass invasion. Sixth, protect the seedbed with a straw mulch. Apply 1 bale of weed-free straw per 1,000 square feet. The straw will help prevent erosion and maintain proper moisture to the germinating seed. Finally, keep the seedbed moist with frequent light irrigation.
Weed control in the spring is a lawn care practice that should be considered carefully. If your lawn has a good dense stand of turfgrass, weed control may not be needed. However, if the lawn has a history of a crabgrass infestation, appropriate control measures are warranted. For best control of crabgrass, apply a preemergence herbicide just prior to crabgrass germination. This normally occurs when soil temperatures near 60oF. Do not expect to obtain good control of broadleaf weeds such as dandelions in the early spring. These weeds are translocating their carbohydrates upward to the leaves at this time. Herbicide applications will burn off the shoots but may not kill the root system.
Thatch control should be considered if the thatch layer is greater than 1/2 inch in depth. Power raking is a mechanical method of thatch control. Power raking can damage the turf and preemergence crabgrass herbicides should be applied after raking and thatch removal. On the other hand, core aerating the lawn will help the thatch to naturally decompose. Aeration is also less damaging to the grass.
March-- A Great Time for Tree Pruning
By Sarah Browning, UNL Extension Educator
Late winter is an excellent time to prune deciduous trees. Branches are easier to remove when not weighed down by leaves and the tree’s branching structure is easier to see. Proper tree pruning is essential in developing trees that are structurally strong and have desirable form. Young trees that receive appropriate pruning require little corrective pruning as they mature.
When to Prune
Most trees can be pruned at any time during the year, but growth is maximized and wound closure is fastest if it takes place just before spring growth. However, flowering trees, like Japanese lilac and magnolia, should be pruned right after they finish blooming to prevent the removal of flower buds during pruning.
How to Prune
Pruning should be done with an understanding of how trees respond to each cut. Improper pruning can cause damage that will last for the life of the tree, or worse, shorten the tree’s life.
Pruning cuts should be made so only branch wood is removed and the trunk is not injured. If only branch wood is removed, the wound is smaller, the tree will be able to seal the wound more effectively, and the chance of problems with wood decay will be greatly reduced.
To locate the proper place to make a pruning cut, first look for the “branch bark ridge” on the upper surface of the branch where it joins the trunk. This is a line of bark pushed up between the branch and trunk as they grow. (Some branch unions will not have this if they did not form properly. Instead the branch will simply press into the supporting stem, forming a sharp V-shaped union.)
On the underside of the branch look for the “branch collar,” which is a slightly swollen area of trunk tissue wrapped around the base of the branch. A proper pruning cut begins just outside the branch bark ridge and angles down and slightly away from the trunk, avoiding injury to the branch collar.
Three-Cut Pruning Method
Small branches can be removed with a single cut using hand pruners or lopers, but large branches should be pruned using a series of three cuts. The first cut is to the underside of the branch, approximately 10–12 inches from the tree’s trunk, and goes less than half way up through the branch. The first cut does not remove any of the branch; it’s purpose is to prevent bark from ripping down the side of the tree when the branch falls. The second cut is made an inch or two further out from the first cut, away from the tree trunk, and removes the majority of the branch. The second cut should be made from the top side of the branch down. The final cut removes the remaining stump, also going from the top of the branch down, being careful not to cut into either the branch bark ridge or the branch collar.
Where to Start
Begin pruning your tree by removing dead, broken, or diseased branches. Next, remove crowded or rubbing limbs and watersprouts or suckers. Watersprouts are very quickly growing, vertical shoots that originate from latent buds on tree branches. They lack the interwoven layers of growth that develops between a tree’s scaffold branches and trunk, which gives the branches their strength. Watersprouts’ weak attachment makes them prone to breakage. Suckers are very similar but originate from the base of the tree.
Developing Branch Structure
When pruning, it’s important to establish a strong scaffold structure. Scaffold branches provide the framework for mature trees. The goal in training young trees is to establish a strong trunk with sturdy, well-spaced branches. Scaffold branches should be spaced alternately up the trunk of the tree, and evenly around the circumference of the trunk.
Branches forming wide angles with the trunk have greater strength than those forming narrow angles with the trunk. Good pruning techniques remove structurally weak branches while maintaining the natural form of the tree. For most young trees, maintain a single, dominant trunk leader.
Avoid the development of co-dominant branches, or branches with approximately the same diameter, attached to the trunk at the same location. Co-dominant stems lack the strong interwoven connection that non-dominant branches form with the trunk. This can make the tree prone to cracking and eventual failure at the joint of co-dominant branches. Some tree species, such as the ornamental pear ‘Bradford’ are prone to the development of co-dominant branches. Instead, choose a cultivar that naturally develops better branch structure, like ‘Aristocrat’ pear.
How Much To Remove
The amount of live tissue that should be removed depends on the tree size, species, and age, as well as, the pruning objectives. Younger trees will tolerate the removal of more living tissue than mature trees, but limbing up a tree too quickly can reduce the development of trunk caliper. Based on the tree’s total height, two-thirds of the tree should be canopy and one-third trunk. Try to maintain these proportions and never remove more than one-third of the tree’s canopy in any growing season.
It’s important to maintain an even distribution of foliage along large limbs and in the lower portion of the crown. Routine thinning of the tree’s inner canopy does not improve its health, but can actually make the tree more susceptible to stress from high summer temperatures.
- Do not make flush cuts that remove the branch collar. Wounds created by flush cuts cause substantially more injury to the tree than wounds left by proper pruning.
- Do not “top” trees. Topping results when branches are cut flat, leaving a long stub beyond the next viable branch. The flat cut can allow water to remain on the wood and promote wood rot. The stub dies and also promotes wood rot. Trees respond to this type of pruning by producing a quick flush of fast-growing, weakly attached branches called watersprouts. Because of their weak attachment, watersprouts are prone to breakage as they grow larger. Topping can cause a decline in the tree’s health and ruin the beauty of your tree.
- Do not apply wound dressings to the cut surface. Wound dressing releases chemicals harmful to the tree and can hold moisture against the cut surface that promotes wood rot. Instead, allow the area to dry naturally. The tree will seal off the wounded tissue and begin growing callus tissue to cover it.
- Don’t be overly concerned if some trees “bleed” or leak sap in spring after late winter pruning. Maple, walnut, willow, and birch are prone to bleeding and should ideally be pruned in late summer. However, bleeding is not harmful to the tree. The sap that is lost was intended for the branches that are now gone, so the tree is not weakened. However, sap can attract insects and provide a place for fungal spores to grow; so frequently wash the sap off the tree until it stops bleeding.
- Don’t take on the pruning of a large tree if it is beyond your skill. Pruning large trees is dangerous work. If pruning involves working above the ground, or using power equipment, it’s best to hire a professional arborist who can determine what type of pruning is necessary to improve the health, appearance, and safety of trees. An arborist will not cause any additional damage to the tree through improper pruning cuts and should be fully insured with liability, property damage, and workmen’s compensation insurance.
Planting Fruit Trees In Nebraska
By Vaughn Hammond, UNL Extension Educator - Specialty Crops
There are many considerations to make when preparing to plant fruit crops. One of the most important tasks lies in the planning. Tree and small fruits are long-term endeavors and it’s important to fully understand their growing requirements for them to produce at their fullest. Start the planning process with a site analysis. Factors to take into consideration include soil characteristics, the amount of sunlight the area receives, soil and air drainage, competition from other plants and available space.
Performing a soil test is critical step that needs to take place early in the planning process. A soil test will determine the pH, fertility levels and amount of organic matter present in the soil. Guidelines for taking a soil sample to be used for testing can be found in the University of Nebraska–Lincoln publication NebGuide G1740 (www.ianrpubs.unl.edu). Since fruit crops are deeper rooted than many agronomic crops, the sample should be taken to the depth of 12 inches rather than the more commonly recommended 8 inches. It’s important to do this early in the planning process to make any amendments that may be needed.
Most fruit crops require full sun for optimum production. Full sun is classified as at least six hours of direct sunlight, preferably during the midday for most fruit crops. Both soil drainage and air drainage are important factors to take into consideration. Heavy clay soils that retain water can lead to reduced vigor and death. Reduced air flow can lead to a buildup of cold air which can result in bud loss and in extreme cases, even plant death.
Once it has been determined that the site is suitable for growing fruit, it’s time to begin the fun part, which is choosing what to plant. The options are almost too many because of all the kinds of fruit and the varieties found within each type that can be grown in Nebraska. Apples, peaches, pears, Asian pears, plums, apricot and tart cherries all are tree fruits that can be grown.
Several factors must be taken into account when choosing what to plant. Is the variety adapted to our growing zones? Nebraska falls into zones 4 and 5. Will the mature size fit into the site? Is the variety self-fruitful or is a pollinator required?
Mature size in some cases may be the most important factor to consider. Mature fruit tree size is classified as standard, semi-dwarf or dwarf. Tree size can be dictated by either genetics or by grafting. Grafting is essentially splicing two types of trees together—two types of apple, for example. The rootstock is the portion of the tree that contains the roots and the scion wood is the portion that is “spliced” on to the rootstock and becomes the upper portion of the tree. The scion takes on certain characteristics of the rootstock. The rootstock can dictate the mature size of the tree.
A standard tree will have no size modification and may reach a size that is inappropriate for the site. Semi-dwarf trees reach a height of 8 to 15 feet. Dwarf trees range from 5 to 8 feet tall and ultra-dwarfs grow no larger than 3 to 4 feet tall. Both the semi-dwarf and dwarf types need to be supported because they are capable to producing a crop that will be too heavy for the tree to physically support without the help of a stake or specially designed trellis used for multiple trees.
Fruit trees are classified as being either self-fruitful, which do not require a pollinator, or self-unfruitful which do require a pollinator. Even if a variety is classified as self-pollinating, it’s a good practice to plant a second genetically different variety that will act as a pollinator. Using a pollinator on a self-pollinating variety will maximize the pollination and result in a superior yield. Fruit trees are classified as either early, mid or late-season bloomers. Be sure to match the blooming period of the pollinator and the tree that is to be pollinated. Ideally, the bloom period should be the same. A midseason blooming pollinator can be used to pollinate either an early or late season variety with varying success. An early and a late season pairing would generally not result in successful cross pollination.
Resistance is another characteristic to consider when choosing what to plant. Most fruit trees are susceptible to a variety disease and insect pests. Some types are more susceptible to these pests than others. Choosing resistant varieties will reduce management inputs, such as disease and insect control.
Nebraska Department of Agriculture (NDA) Director Greg Ibach has announced the statewide designation of Japanese knotweed, Fallopia japonica, and giant knotweed, Fallopia sachalinenis, including any cultivars and hybrids as noxious weeds in Nebraska.
"In order for us to continue being good stewards of the land, we need to work to protect our natural resources from non-native plants that have no value and have the potential to cause damage to our ecosystem if left unchecked," Ibach said. "This designation in necessary to help county weed control officials work with landowners to address areas of infestation and to prevent the further spread of this invasive species."
Ibach has the authority to designate weeds as noxious under the Noxious Weed Control Act.
According to Mitch Coffin, NDA Noxious Weed Program Manager, Japanese and giant knotweed can threaten both open and riparian areas. Plants may spread rapidly and from dense monocultures. In riparian habitats, the weeds can increase the risk of flooding and river bank erosion. Prolific rhizome and shoot growth can also damage foundations, walls, pavement, drainage works, and flood prevention structures.
Other officially designated noxious weeds in Nebraska include: Saltcedar, Canada thistle, leafy spurge, musk thistle, plumeless thistle, purple loosestrife, spotted and diffuse knapweeds, and phragmites. Pictures and additional information on each noxious weed is available on the NDA Noxious Weed website.
Those with questions about the Japanese and giant knotweed designations are encouraged to contact their county weed control superintendent. Questions also may be directed to Mitch Coffin at (402) 471-6844.
By Sara Ellicott, UNL Extension Educator
For acreage owners choosing to raise livestock, this is an important topic of discussion. Biosecurity sounds like a complex word; however, it really is mostly about protecting the health of your animals, by taking steps to prevent disease from entering your property and also, most importantly, protecting your health.
According to the Nebraska Beef Quality Assurance training manual, “Maintaining a biosecurity program is the cheapest, most effect means to control disease, and no disease prevention program will be effective without it.”
So, it is best to take precaution and set up some preventative measures to reduce the risk of disease introduction or transmission. Diseases can move from farm-to-farm or even animal-to-animal by a variety of ways. Diseases are transmitted by rodents, pets, equipment, humans, or simply by air. If we work on eliminating some of the risk through good production practices we can increase the potential of maintaining a healthy environment to raise livestock/animals that produce food products.
Below are a few ways to practice biosecurity. There is a more complete list in the publications below or in any quality assurance manual. Here are some relatively simple measures to adapt and make a habit in your daily chore regimen.
- Provide plenty of feed, water and shelter.
- Use low stress management and handling.
- Minimize fence line contact with neighboring animals.
- Purchase feed from a reputable source.
- Purchase livestock from reputable sources.
- Isolate sick animals.
- Do not share equipment with a neighbor unless it has been disinfected between uses.
- Have an insect control program in place (insects can spread disease).
- Have a rodent control program in place (rodents can spread disease).
- Pets, such as dogs or cats should have limited access to pens and feedbunks, as they can quickly spread disease.
- Remove manure and dead animals in a timely manner.
- If visitors come, control the access they have to your animals, since humans can also transfer disease, particularly if they have animals at their home or work.
- Anyone who touches or is around animals should wash their hands with soap and water after being around them to prevent spread of disease.
- Keep records of all treatments, disease and movement of animals.
If you do not already have a biosecurity plan in place, I would encourage you to think about one and visit with your local veterinarian to figure out what preventative steps for you can take on your place.
There are also some UNL Extension NebGuides related to biosecurity, which can serve as a resource:
Biosecurity Basics for Cattle Operations and Good Management Practices (GMP) for Controlling Infectious Diseases
Guarding Against Contagious Livestock Diseases from Farm Visitors
Biosecurity: Protecting Your Health and the Health of Your Animals