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Biosecurity when visiting a farm

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For anyone visiting a livestock premises it is important to follow appropriate biosecurity measures.

Anyone visiting a farm needs to be aware of the risk of spreading animal diseases from one premises to another. It is important to practice good biosecurity to:

  • limit the risk of introducing or carrying an infectious disease to or from farm animals - this includes infection that may be present but has not yet showed any sign of disease
  • protect yourself from infectious diseases and to avoid infecting animals with an infection you may be carrying.

Good biosecurity principles

The amount of disease prevention measures that are used can be adapted according to:

  • which parts of the livestock premises are being visited
  • the anticipated contact and interaction level with any animals.

This should take into account the type of animals kept on the farm and the type of farm management system in place.  For example:

  • If a visit is restricted to an office or the farmhouse, then there would be no need for protective clothing to be worn and no disinfection required. However, care should be taken to prevent contamination of footwear if access to the building involves crossing an area used by animals.
  • Where a visit results in handling livestock, the full set of recommended protective clothing should be worn and full disinfection applied.  

Practical guidelines

The spread of diseases between different premises can be via contaminated clothes, boots, vehicles and equipment. The following measures will minimise this risk.

Before any farm visit:

  • find out whether contact with livestock is expected/planned
  • check the owner’s own biosecurity requirements, well in advance - you should always comply with the premises’ own arrangements - expect high standards and restrictions for access to intensive farms such as large scale poultry and pig enterprises
  • make sure that your vehicle is clean - if your vehicle becomes soiled from animal related sources, you should clean it before going to another livestock premises
  • check if disinfectant and protective clothing are being provided - if not they will have to be taken to the visit - this may include taking water to dilute or mix up the disinfectant
  • personal protective clothing and equipment should always be fit for purpose and proportionate to the activity and environment.

At the site of the visit:

  • carefully consider where you leave your vehicle
  • footwear that can be washed and disinfected should be worn if you are accessing any area of the farm where livestock is or has been - this includes access to grazing fields
  • where direct contact with livestock is to take place, boots, waterproof leggings and a waterproof jacket should be worn - you should also consider wearing disposable gloves
  • it is vital that all protective clothing is visibly clean and has been disinfected before contact with livestock takes place. At the end of the visit, protective clothing should be cleaned and disinfected or disposed of carefully. This is best done on the premises prior to departure
  • do not dispose of disinfectant to septic tanks that rely on bacterial action to break down organic matter
  • disinfection should only be applied once dirt has been washed off - this is because the effects of the disinfectant may be neutralised by the presence of any organic or inorganic material.

Appropriate disinfectants:

  • you should only use an approved disinfectant.
  • disinfectant should only be used at the correct dilution rate
  • you must adhere to any ‘use by’ dates for the disinfectants
  • check with the farmer when disposing of disinfectants at the farm
  • for a list of the approved disinfectants for use in Wales, England and Scotland, go to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) website (external link).

In the event of an extremely high risk situation e.g. a Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) outbreak, your visit may have to be suspended. Guidance on this will be given by us at the time.

What biosecurity measures should the public in general take?

If you have a right of access through a livestock premises you should respect the legal boundaries and any legal notices. Where facilities are provided to clean mud/manure off footwear and vehicles you should use them.

When in the countryside, recreational users should follow these precautions:

  • do not stray from the right of way onto grazing land
  • avoid all contact with farm animals and avoid livestock areas e.g. feeding stations - this is important not only for biosecurity reasons but also your own Health and Safety. This also helps avoid unnecessary stress to the animals
  • respect all official signage
  • never feed animals or leave food and/or packaging around where animals can eat it
  • make sure gates are left as they are found
  • use disinfectant footpads or baths where provided
  • remove mud and manure from vehicles
  • take all litter home
  • keep dogs on a lead and under close control at all times.