Biosecurity Protocols for Field/Farm Visits

Agricultural Disaster Preparedness and Recovery March 24, 2010 Print Friendly and PDF

One of the duties of Cooperative Extension personnel, Department of Agriculture inspectors, and other field workers is to visit farm and agricultural operations to assist citizens with solving problems and complying with governmental regulations. Although this is usually the most practical and convenient way to do business, it also requires field personnel to be certain they do not move animal, plant, or soil pathogens from operation to operation. Follow the following procedures to reduce the likelihood of disease transmission between farm visits.


1. Assess the Risk Before the Visit

Low Risk

  • Area visited: home, office, or routine crop field visits; no animal or manure contact
Number of visits per day: Few
No report of unusual disease or other serious problems

Moderate Risk

  • Area visited: Crop field or animal facility; minimal animal or manure contact
Number of visits per day: Several
Possible report of unusual disease or other serious problem

High Risk

  • Areas visited: Several fields or animal facilities; direct animal or manure contact
Number of visits per day: Many; may include animal auctions or other animal congregation sites (weighing, tagging, breeding, etc.)
Report of unusual disease or other serious problem

2. Take Precautions

Low Risk

Wear a washable light jacket and hat. Wash exposed areas – hands, face, arms – after visit. Wear washable or disposable boots; remove and wash or dispose of boots before leaving facility.

Moderate Risk

Wear single-use disposable coveralls and boots (one pair of coveralls and boots per site). Remove before entering car and put in a sealed plastic bag before leaving facility. Dispose of bag properly on site.

  • If more rugged, washable rubber boots are used, be sure to scrub and then sanitize boots before leaving site.
  • Washable coveralls should be changed between site visits and put in a sealed plastic bag, then washed at the end of the day. Wash separately from other clothing.
  • If you become contaminated or suspect problems at the farm – STOP. Do not make additional visits that day. Launder clothing and shower well.
  • Visit cleanest sites first and dirtiest sites last.

High Risk

Use protocols outlined for moderate risk. Additional personal protective equipment may be required (i.e. mask/respirator, protective eyewear). Following the visit, self-quarantine for 72 hours. Consider who should visit a site where a serious problem is reported.

3. Carry Appropriate Equipment

  • Boots – single-use booties or washable rubber boots
  • Basin, brush, detergent, and disinfectant (8 tablespoons or 4 ounces* of household bleach per gallon of water)
  • Washable jackets – wash daily
  • Hats – wash daily
  • Tyvec disposable coveralls with hood
  • Particle respirator/mask
  • Plastic bags – several sizes

4. Other Important Procedures

  • Continue to assess risk once you are at the facility and take appropriate action.
  • If risk level increases due to detection of suspicious disease, etc., follow the procedures for the higher risk level.
  • Always remove any organic matter (i.e. manure) from vehicles, shoes, etc. before disinfecting boots/equipment and leaving a facility. Consider disinfectant treatment of vehicle based on risk.
  • Do not drive vehicles inside animal production areas. Park in designated visitor parking.
  • Call ahead. Respect the client's right to limit access to vulnerable areas.
  • Think biosecurity first.

* As per F. William Pierson, MS, DVM, PhD, Dip ACPV Center for Molecular Medicine and Infectious Diseases College of Veterinary Medicine Virginia Tech Blacksburg, VA 24061-0342

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This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.