Just a few weeks into 2005, and most people have broken—or at least, bent— their New Years’ resolutions. More likely, you didn’t even make one. But there is a resolution that you should make and take seriously. Texas state veterinarian Bob Hillman offers a list that livestock and poultry producers that can adopt at anytime. In other words, it’s not too late. 

1. Fence or lock out disease.

2. Never settle for “almost” in disease eradication.

3. Conduct appropriate post-mortem exams, herd-health profiles and other testing and monitoring tools.

4. Control insects, rodents and other critters.

5. Maintain a good relationship with your herd veterinarian.

6. Don’t stall; call to report any unusual signs of disease or pests in your herd.

7. Register for a new “address” (as it applies to your state’s animal ID involvement).

“Disease prevention is cheaper and more beneficial than disease eradication, and even though exotic and foreign-animal diseases get the big headlines, domestic disease outbreaks also can wreak havoc for producers,” says Hillman, head of the Texas Animal Health Commission, the state’s livestock and poultry health regulatory agency. “Outbreaks result in quarantines, widespread testing requirements, loss of credibility and marketing opportunities for our livestock and livestock products. One way to protect your herd or flock is to fence out disease.”

If your state has a feral swine population—and more states do today– it’s important to maintain barriers to keep wild swine from mingling with domestic pigs. “We know many feral hogs carry and can transmit pseudorabies,” says Hillman.  “Late last year, U.S. commercial swine herds were declared free of pseudorabies.  If feral swine spread disease to commercial swine, it would jeopardize our PRV-free status and our ability to ship swine without tests or restrictions.”

In 2004, eight transitional swine herds in the United States contracted the disease from wild swine. “Swine brucellosis is another disease present in feral swine that can be spread to commercial swine herds,” notes Hillman. “One infected herd or flock makes all the difference between ‘close’ and finished with disease eradication, and disease can be reintroduced or spread silently.”

  “A good relationship with your private veterinary practitioner also is crucial to maintaining healthy livestock,” notes Hillman. Familiarity with your herd and your personnel can help your veterinarian more effectively detect and respond to herd health questions and concerns. Post-mortem exams and herd-health profiling allows you and your veterinarian to better track changes. Combining that information with diagnostic tests can provide a clearer picture of what might be happening in your herd.

Foreign-animal and emerging diseases present different challenges. Among the challenges is lack of familiarity. Hillman point’s to Texas’ experience last year with a vesicular stomatitis outbreak. This blistering disease looks similar to foot-and-mouth disease. “That’s why it is so important to have laboratory tests run to determine the cause of illness if cattle, pigs, sheep or goats exhibit blistering,” he says.

Resolve to stay alert and report unusual signs of disease or pests. This protects not only your own herd or flock, but other herds as well. Signs to be concerned about include widespread illness or unexpected death losses in herds or flocks.

“Tracking livestock movement always has been a frustrating aspect of disease eradication,” Hillman notes. But USDA’s National Animal Identification System is starting to make inroads. Several states are conducting pilot projects and the groundwork for national system is being laid. Hillman emphasizes that producers need to become familiar with their state’s plans, and get involved sooner versus later.

The premises identifications will animal-health personnel a “head start” in tracking diseased animals and which herds or flocks may have been exposed.  “Ideally, it could take minutes, instead of months, to determine where animals have been moved,” says Hillman. “The sooner a disease outbreak is eradicated, the sooner producers can return to normal business.”

It doesn’t matter which species or how many head of livestock or poultry you own, notes Hillman. “Resolve to keep disease out, control pests, stay alert and report unusual signs of disease. Stay in touch with your private veterinary practitioner and you’ll have met important resolutions this year, and every year.  These could be your most cost-effective and beneficial management decisions.”