All pathogens have specific requirements for reproduction including temperature, substrates (manure, discharge, feed residues), moisture, hosts and pH value. In order to successfully establish hygiene strategies in the workflow, an understanding of the basics and aims of hygiene is required.
Germs differ in their ability to survive and their survival time outside of the host, for example, salmonella can remain infectious for up to three months in damp areas. Pathogens develop defence mechanisms against dying in unfavourable conditions. They form mucus capsules, spores, etc. Their exponential growth is also a survival strategy. In this way, bacteria can double every 20 minutes in the right conditions (more than 64 times in two hours! Meaning more new bacteria develop than die off).
Since germs multiply depending on temperature, substrate supply and moisture, this includes general farm hygiene measures designed to minimise these factors. These measures include general tidiness and cleanliness, orderly waste management, manure and slurry storage, and clean work clothes. This already has an influence on the flies and rodent population, which reduces the spread of pathogens.
Depending on the germ, the following are possible exposure routes:
• the air, dust particles and aerosols serve as a vehicle
• direct contact with excretions (faeces, urine, mucus, semen),
• direct contact between animals
• via humans, feed, water, equipment, waste, manure,
• flies, rodents.
These are possibilities to consider which reduce the formation of dust when spreading bedding material or feeding. It is also important to remove dirty residues before they dry and turn into dust.
Regularly removing faeces from stalls and running areas, cleaning the drinking bowls, feeding troughs and scrubbing brushes block the exposure routes, as does separating sick animals (infectious hoof inflammations, open skin wounds, metritis, etc.). In addition, the all-in all-out principle of igloos, rearing quarters and calving box after cleaning and disinfection prevents the spread of pathogens. This is also associated with hygienic food storage. Enclosed spaces, silos and covers prevent the contamination through faeces of rodents, cats or birds. In light of this, it is not only important to focus on fly and rodent control, but also on human hygiene and appropriate working practices. This means, for example, intermediate cleaning of boots after leaving heavily contaminated areas, tending to sick animals last, washing hands when changing tasks, clean clothes and special clothes for activities (such as milking or spreading manure) and providing company-owned protective clothing for visitors. The more densely animals are kept, the shorter the exposure routes, therefore overcrowding should be avoided.
All measures for blocking the exposure routes lead to a reduction in germs overall and therefore reduce the germ level. However, there are areas which require a higher level including the working areas for milking, birthing, calf rearing and administering medications (Dry-off Treatments).
A key element here is professional cleaning and disinfection. A successful disinfection requires thorough cleaning, if necessary, using grease and/or protein solvents and descaling agents. In addition, smooth surfaces are preferred in the above areas. When using disinfectants, it is important to remember the following points:
- products certified by the DLG [German Agricultural Society] ensure effectiveness when used correctly
- choose a product suitable for the target area
- apply in the right concentration (read instructions for use)
- ensure output quantity (0.4L solution per square metre)
- pay attention to treatment time (treatment time is the time until treated area dries; high external temperatures, sunlight etc. can significantly shorten the treatment time)
Tackling an infection does not only depend on the amount of germs and the pathogenicity of the pathogens, but also on the defence status of the host.
This is determined by
- stress (handling, climate, social stress)
The better the housing, feeding and management work, the better the body’s own defence.
It should be noted that animals who appear to be healthy can be carriers of pathogens. They may be carriers or animals in the incubation phase.
Hygiene is a whole package of measures to improve the well-being of the animals and to prevent illnesses. The better everything is coordinated and implemented, the more successful the efforts. If one area is neglected, this will negatively influence the overall success.
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