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COVID-19 not a danger to milk supply, but it’s a good biosecurity reminder 

By Darren Turley, TAD executive director

The need for biosecurity for Texas dairy farms is an issue discussed regularly at Texas Association of Dairymen. I attend meetings on crisis planning in case of the outbreak of diseases such as hoof-and-mouth or tuberculosis on Texas dairy farms.

For a decade now, these issues have been a mainstay of TAD’s work to prepare the dairy industry, allied industries and the regulators.

Times certainly have changed in just the past few weeks, with the COVID-19, or coronavirus, pandemic. While livestock cannot contract or transmit this strain of the disease, biosecurity on the farm certainly is more important than ever to protect yourself, your family and your employees. In addition, our dairy community must reassure the public that our food supply is safe.

Here’s a statement from the National Milk Producers Federation:

“The FDA has confirmed that heat treatment kills other coronaviruses, so pasteurization is expected to also inactivate this virus. In addition, there is no evidence that this strain of coronavirus is present in domestic livestock such as cattle. The virus is spread through aerosol transmission and close human contact, not through food products.”

What could negatively impact the dairy industry, across the country, are damages to domestic and world markets, or supply chain labor disruptions on the farm, at the processing plant or in transporting milk.

Of particular concern right now is to protect your workforce; while many industries are shifting to ask their employees to work from home, that isn’t a possibility, of course, when it comes to milking cows. Please make sure your family and your workforce are practicing safe procedures regarding sanitation for themselves and your equipment.

Always – not just in this pandemic – the future of dairy, from the individual farm to the industry as a whole, relies on the biosecurity efforts of each farm.

More and more farms are becoming closed herds by raising all the replacements needed from their own calves. This is a great step to reduce the chance of bringing an infected animal into the herd. Purchased animals should be tested for tuberculosis before they are brought onto your farm.

Today dairy farmers also must monitor the impact of their labor on herd health. A worker’s positive test for tuberculosis raises the possibility of spreading the disease not only to other workers, but also the livestock. More research on this topic is underway, but it should be considered in your biosecurity plan.

Texas Association of Dairymen understands that the need for labor and the diligent efforts that most producers are currently undertaking are a major impact to the great growth of Texas dairy industry.  We also understand the huge financial investment that you have in your operation and the vulnerability that you have if there is a disease impact to your facility.

TAD will continue to work on regulations that impact the biosecurity of your farm, but please be diligent in your individual practices to protect your farm.

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