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Biosecurity: For the Sheep Shearer

Biosecurity is defined as management practices that protect the herd and farm personnel from the entry of disease agents and minimize the spread or adverse effects of diseases currently in the herd. For on- farm biosecurity to be successful everyone involved with production and product harvest must pay attention to their role in on-farm biosecurity, including the shearer. In addition, today’s consumers are demanding animal products of high quality and free of disease. The purpose of this bulletin is to help sheep shearers identify important biosecurity measures to keep sheep flocks they service healthy, economically productive, and safe.

For years sheep producers and shearers have been concerned about health and diseases of sheep for productivity and human health reasons. Sheep diseases can be brought onto the farm by people and equipment moving from one farm to another.  The economic loss from infectious or chronic disease can be devastating to individual flocks or even an entire animal industry. Therefore, it is essential that sheep shearers or individuals moving between different flocks recognize different sheep diseases and prevention practices so they can protect other flocks and themselves.

Biosecurity for a sheep shearer obviously cannot function like an integrated or closed sheep operation. However, the same general considerations and actions should be observed to prevent the spread of diseases, especially when moving between flocks. Individuals shearing various flocks should develop a biosecurity plan that addresses the disease of the flocks serviced, the potential for spread, and the ability to implement preventative measures when moving between flocks. Producers and consumers demand for high quality, safe animal products require a well-defined and documented biosecurity plan. This biosecurity plan will allow shearers to inform producers of their safety measures while helping to ensure a safe, wholesome, and profitable lamb and wool products is produced.

Contagious Sheep Diseases of Concern:

  1. Caseous Lymphadenitis is a contagious bacterial disease of the lymphatic system of ruminant This is one of the most costly infectious diseases   of adult sheep in the United States.    The clinical sign of caseous lymphadenitis is abscesses involving the lymph nodes on the side of the head or beneath the jaw. These abscesses are often ruptured or cut during shearing and can be spread to other sheep sheared after the affected animal. For this reason the healthy, young animals should be sheared first, followed by animals of questionable health.
  2. Soremouth is a viral disease, which causes scabs to form primarily on the lips and around the mouth of Soremouth is caused by a virus that can also affect humans, so caution should be used when handling lambs with soremouth. A physician should be consulted if suspicious lesions appear on your hands.
  3. Pinkeye is a contagious bacterial disease of the eyes of sheep goats and It can cause serious permanent eye damage and even blindness. Sheep with pink eye exhibit excessive tearing or tears that are yellow and form crust on the hairs of the eyelid or the edge of the eye lid.
  4. Foot rot is an infectious and painful condition affecting the skin between the toes of a sheep or goat and can spread to the hoof Animals with foot rot will become lame and exhibit swollen red skin between the toes or lesions. When trimming the feet of flocks with foot rot, hoof trimmers should be sanitized between each animal.

Sheep Shearer Biosecurity Management Techniques:

  1. The most important biosecurity technique that a shearer can incorporate into their business is to properly maintain and clean all equipment when working between different Consult with your


equipment manufacture to determine the best way to clean the shearing handpiece and blades. Some disinfectants are very corrosive and not suitable to use on this type of equipment. In general, chlorine bleach (four ounces in a gallon of water) is an effective, inexpensive disinfectant to clean general equipment that can be properly and completely dried. Bleach is highly corrosive.

  1. Reduce exposure to infected animals within a Shear healthy young sheep first, followed by older sheep. Shear potentially unhealthy or sick sheep last.
  2. Know the health status of the animals you will be shearing so you can ensure your biosecurity techniques are adequate to prevent the spread of potential infectious agents within the flock.
  3. Properly clean and dispose of any clothes, waste or excess wool products you may have or Many external parasites (keds, ticks, lice, or mites) can hitch-hike a ride with you between flocks if you do not change or remove infected clothing. Shower and change cloths between flocks.
  4. Impose a detailed record keeping system to identify the potential origin or spread of a disease to aid in disease eradication when necessary.
  5. No one biosecurity plan is going to work for every shearer or shearing scenario, therefore use a common sense approach to prevent the accidental introduction of infectious agents to other flocks you shear.

Biosecurity is becoming more important to both producers and consumers to ensure the safety of American agriculture and our food supply. Therefore, it will pay to be conscientious about preventing and controlling the spread of infectious agents to other flocks or to you. Remember the goal of biosecurity management is to reduce and prevent the opportunity for infectious agents to gain access and spread within a population of animals.

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