Biosecurity practices in Belgian veal calf farming: Level of implementation, attitudes, strengths, weaknesses and constraints.Prev Vet Med. 2019 Nov 15; 172:104768.PV
The shift from cure toward prevention in veterinary medicine involves the implementation of biosecurity. In cattle farming, the application of biosecurity measures has been described to a limited degree, yet no data on biosecurity on veal farms is available. A high degree of commingling of veal calves from multiple farms causes frequent disease outbreaks, and thereby high antimicrobial usage and increased risk of antimicrobial resistance. Therefore, this study aimed to describe the current implementation of biosecurity on veal farms in Belgium. To this extent, a list of the most important calf diseases (n = 34) was created, and risk factors and related biosecurity measures for these diseases were determined and included in a questionnaire. Herd visits and face-to-face interviews were conducted on 20 randomly selected veal farms, comprising 8.3% of the target population. A categorical principal component and clustering analysis were performed to determine the influence of the veal companies on the farms' biosecurity level. Awareness of biosecurity was very low among the farmers. All farms used an "all-in, all-out" production system with calves originating from multiple farms without quarantine. On average, farms were filled in 11.4 days (range 2-52). The degree of commingling for these farms was 1.24, meaning that, on average, 124 calves originated from 100 farms. Veterinarians wore farm-specific boots on eight farms (40%) and farm-specific clothes on six farms (30%), while technical advisors wore farm-specific boots on six farms (30%) and farm-specific clothes on four farms (20%). Disinfection footbaths were only used in five farms (25%) despite being present in all farms in the sample. Concerning internal biosecurity, none of the farmers isolated sick animals; only one farmer (5%) had a physically separated hospital pen, and only 11 farmers (55%) both cleaned and disinfected the stables after each production cycle. In most farms, animals were of comparable age. Healthy calves generally remained in the same compartment during the entire production cycle, limiting the risks associated with the movement of animals. No influence of the integrations on the biosecurity level could be determined. It can be concluded that a few biosecurity measures, such as "'all-in, all-out" and compartmentation, are implemented relatively well, while other measures, such as good cleaning and disinfection and proper entrance measures for visitors and personnel can easily be improved. The improvement of measures regarding the introduction of animals of different origins will require more fundamental changes in the veal industry.