A Lesson in Biosecurity
Our clients buy beef directly from our farm for a variety of reasons. Some clients like knowing their beef was ethically raised. Some like the taste of our beef over that purchased at a grocery store. Others like knowing that our animals are not treated with antibiotics or growth hormones.
All of the reasons listed above are valid concerns of a consumer. But there is another avenue of the beef industry that is not really thought about by the consumer, or spoken about in the news media that a consumer should think about – biosecurity.
In general, biosecurity is an action plan farmers have in place to insure no diseases, infestations, or harmful biological agents are introduced to their farm. Biosecurity means different things according to what is grown on a particular farm. Unfortunately there have been several breaches of biosecurity on large-scale row crop farms resulting in massive recalls of food such as spinach, lettuce, kale, etc.
Small family cattle farm operations generally do not have to worry about a biosecurity plan as their farm business model consists of raising calves until they are big enough to sell at an auction (or cull if a particular cow is old or not producing anymore). Once sold at an auction, the larger feed lot operation the calf goes to is where a biosecurity plan is implemented.
However, on a small family farm that sells beef directly to the public (like mine), it is very important to have a biosecurity plan in place.
Our farm consists of 5 small parcels of property throughout north Alabama where we rotate our cows in order to keep them grass fed. Because these properties are quite literally in the middle of nowhere, we do not really have to worry about disease being brought to our farm by visitors. If we were to have an infestation of foreign bacteria and/or potential illness, it would be brought to our farm by the purchase of new cattle from a different farm.
How do I at prevent this problem on my farm? I have what is called a “closed herd”.
A closed herd is a farming operation that does not introduce new cattle. The cows on our farm were born there, and it is highly likely that their mothers, grandmothers, and great-grandmothers were born there as well. Every few years, we do have to replace our cows as they get older, but the biosecurity plan we have in place is to (1) purchase them from a reputable breeder and not an auction house, (2) have them immediately checked out by a veterinarian, and (3) quarantine them for 60-90 days before introducing them to our herd.
Another way we insure our beef is safe is we do not sell beef that was not born on our farm. That is the easiest way to insure the beef I sell is safe, free of antibiotics, and taken care of properly. If I have care and control over a beef from day one, than I can assure my clients that their food is safe.
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