Prevent Animal Disease on the Farm

Whether it’s circulating around the state, such as the bird flu, or it’s threatening us at our border, such as the African Swine Fever, you can take measures on the farm to protect your livestock and crops from disease. University of Vermont Professor Julie Smith recommends calling in professionals immediately if you experience any of the five “Ds” on your cropping operation:

  • Discoloration
  • Deformed
  • Defoliated
  • Dying
  • Deficiency

Smith leads a multi-state biosecurity project titled Animal Disease Biosecurity Coordinated Agricultural Project. She says, “don’t miss the signs of foreign animal disease. Watch out for your ‘BUDDIES’.”

Signs of Foreign Animal Disease

  • Blisters
  • Unusual ticks or maggots
  • Death or downers
  • Diarrhea
  • Illness (affecting an unusual number of animals, looks different from anything before)
  • Eating abnormally
  • Staggering or seizures

Raising any animal can be challenging without the threat of disease. Below are some of the diseases that can affect each animal on your farm and prevention methods you can follow to stop these diseases before they begin.  


ASF, Brucellosis, Porcine, Epidemic Diarrhea, and Pseudorabies.

Prevention Methods:  

  • Keep pork out of kitchen scraps for hogs  
  • Use fresh water for hogs, not surface water such as ponds or streams  
  • Buy or borrow from disease-free herds – look for Validated Swine Brucellosisfree and Qualified Pseudorabies negative (VQ Herds)  
  • Isolate new pigs or pigs that have been off the farm – at the vet, show, or on loan for breeding – for 30 days  
  • Keep pig pastures, housing and farm clean of manure, dead animals, trash, etc.  
  • Keep out wildlife, and keep insects under control  
  • Have a clear line of separation between “out” and “in” the pig area
  • Have a footbath and scrub brush at every entry  
  • Write up a farm biosecurity plan with experts  


Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza and Virulent Newcastle Disease  

 Prevention Methods:  

  • Keep visitors to a minimum  
  • Keep track of everyone who is on your property  
  • Wash your hands with soap and water before and after encountering live birds  
  • Use disposable boot covers and/or disinfectant footbaths for anyone having contact with your flock  
  • Change clothes before entering and exiting poultry areas  
  • Clean and disinfect tools or equipment before moving them to a new facility  
  • Look for signs of illness: appetite loss, decreased egg production/misshapen eggs, swelling, sinus issues, incoordination, diarrhea, or sudden death  
  • Report any sick birds by calling your local vet or USDA toll-free at 1-866-536-7593  

Many of the same biosecurity practices, such as controlling farm entrances, isolating new animals, and having separate clothing/shoes for the farm, can be used on ruminant operations.


Tuberculosis and Brucellosis 

Prevention Methods:  

  • Add only test negative livestock from known negative herds to your herd
  • Depopulate TB-affected herds or test and remove reactor animals from TB-affected herds  
  • Vaccinate calves, test cattle, and domestic bison for Brucellosis, and send infected animals to slaughter  
  • Depopulation of herds 


Scrapie Disease

Prevention Methods:  

  • Watch for clinical signs: nervousness, aggression, intense rubbing, incoordination, tremors, weight loss, wool pulling, or death  
  • Eradicate the disease from the flock by selective depopulation and cleaning and disinfecting the premises  
  • Restock with rams that are resistant  
  • Restock with ewes of resistant or less susceptible genotypes (currently all goats are considered genetically susceptible)  

Together, we can keep Wisconsin farms safe. Rural Mutual has been protecting farms across the state of Wisconsin for over 80 years. Reach out to your local Rural Mutual insurance agent to make sure you’re doing everything you can to protect your farm.