University of Maryland Extension

Best Practices for Animal Quarantine

Sara BhaduriHauck

Quarantining new and sick animals is a practice that most livestock producers are familiar with. With the spreading avian flu predicted to reach Maryland in the coming months, it’s also something that’s been on the forefront of my mind recently. We all know that quarantine is important in reducing the spread of disease, but it must be done properly to be effective. Does your quarantine protocol follow each of these essential guidelines?

Quarantine all animals new to your farm for at least 21 days. (Quarantining for 28 days is even better.) Some diseases have a long incubation period, and you might not see symptoms of a disease in less time. Pay special attention to the animals in quarantine by observing feed and water intake, amount and consistency of manure, and behavior, and check for any signs of illness daily.

Ensure that your quarantine area is far enough away from areas where your current herd or flock is housed. At the very least, provide separate pens and don’t allow quarantined and non-quarantined animals to share a fence line. If you must house quarantined animals in the same barn, keep the quarantine area at the end of the barn that receives the least amount of traffic. It’s best to have at least 14 feet of separation between the quarantine area and the rest of your herd or flock.

Consider placement of your quarantine area. It’s best to put quarantined animals down slope and downwind so that any contaminated manure or aerosolized pathogens aren’t moving in to areas where your healthy animals are kept.

Take care of your current herd or flock before taking care of the animals in quarantine. This will help to reduce the amount of possible cross contamination.

Keep designated equipment in the quarantine area. Don’t use the same buckets, wheelbarrows, pitchforks, etc. in the quarantine area that you use with the rest of your animals. This also applies to your boots! Have designated boots to wear in the quarantine area, use disposable boot covers, or clean and sterilize your boots after working in the quarantine area.

Practice good personal hygiene. Be sure to wash your hands directly after leaving the quarantine area. It’s best to completely change your clothes, too, before working in areas where your current herd or flock is housed, but this isn’t always practical. Alternatively, you can keep a designated pair of coveralls to wear in the quarantine area.

Quarantining is a crucial part of a good biosecurity plan, but don’t forget about other practices intended to prevent diseases from coming on to your farm. If you visit other farms or come in contact with other livestock, you could possibly bring disease home on your boots or even on your trailer tires. Be sure to clean and disinfect any potential vectors upon arriving home. (Remember, only clean surfaces can be disinfected, so always remove manure or dirt by scrubbing before disinfecting with a chemical solution like bleach.) It’s a good idea to keep a designated pair of boots for use on your own farm and wear different shoes when you visit elsewhere.    

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