How secure is your dairy farm?

Darren Turley TAD Executive Director

Have you ever thought about the security of your farm? Are you taking the necessary steps to protect your cows, your employees and your investment?

Regulators will expect dairy farms to be more secure in the future. Have you ever looked at your dairy from the outside to see how protected it is? Is there a fence around your facility? How about a single access point or a separate entrance for feed delivery trucks? This is important because, if we have a foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) outbreak, a dairy farm must be able to bring in feed without crossing the path of cows or manure that could be infected. A dedicated access lane also allows milk to be moved off the farm. The continuity of your business during a disease outbreak is paramount.

The Texas Association of Dairymen has taken part in many crisis drills and meetings to prepare for an episode we hope never happens. Recently, TAD board Chairman David Volleman and I participated in the Texas Animal Health Commission agriculture response management and resources tabletop exercise, held in conjunction with 11 other states that worked through the exercise at the same time. Working as a group helps us identify and work through issues that could arise during the unfolding of an event. The group then shares these issues with state and federal representatives present at the crisis drill. This will help speed decisions in the event of an actual crisis.

The number of vehicles that come and go on a dairy farm for milk, feed, young stock and employees makes it very challenging to secure a facility. Consider that a disease outbreak would generate an order to stop all movement on or off a farm for several days, at a minimum – even if the disease is found in another state. This will make daily operations difficult for most large dairy farms. Moving milk and feed on or off the property is of the utmost importance for animal welfare and business continuity. And what about dairies that do not raise calves or do not raise their bull calves? If all movement is stopped, a dairy farm could have hundreds of calves born before access is restored. These are some of the issues that must be discussed in advance of a real crisis.

A crisis isn’t always a disease outbreak. As we saw at the start of 2016, Winter Storm Goliath tested Texas dairy farmers in many ways. Following that storm, TAD worked to address the challenges that arose from that storm, as well as focused on preparing for other events that could interrupt your business. TAD staff also continues to prepare both state and federal regulators by educating them about the hard questions that must be answered for Texas dairy farmers, in the event of a crisis.

We hope all this planning and work is never tested. But if we do have a disease outbreak or another major storm, going through these crisis drills will help both individual dairy farmers and our industry as a whole both recover and continue our mission to feed consumers.