Biosecurity – dealing with animals coming into your herd – begins with isolating the cattle. “At a minimum, all newly purchased animals should be held away from the herd for 30 days,” Sager says. This allows you to check their health and reduce insect-borne disease transfer from the new cattle.

However, he realizes that isolating new cattle on arrival isn’t always done. In fact, the National Animal Health Monitoring System reported in 2008 that in herds of 1-99 beef cows, 35% had added new animals within the previous 12 months, without utilizing a 30-day isolation of the new arrivals. Meanwhile, in herds of over 100 cows, 64% added new cattle during the previous 12 months, without isolating new cattle.

“Up to 10% of the purchases were in pregnant beef cows with no knowledge of animal health status,” Sager says. Almost 20% were bulls introduced to the herd.

“These purchases didn’t involve any measure of quarantine or any other biosecurity measures,” he explains. That’s disturbing, he adds, particularly if the purchase didn’t involve any knowledge of the herd of origin or animal health measures taken by the seller.

Then there are the neighbors. “A key step is to understand your neighbors’ animal health programs and how they compare with yours,” Sager says. Then you can develop measures with your veterinarian to deal with pressures from surrounding herds.

That philosophy of “know thy neighbor” also applies to newly purchased cattle. Sager spent 37 years in private practice before joining the MU faculty. He says it always surprised him that clients would invest hundreds of hours studying EPDs, and thousands of dollars buying bulls and replacement females, but almost no time reviewing the ranch-of-origin’s health program.

According to Ondrak, record-keeping is important. Keep track of where the cattle came from, where they went upon arrival at your place, and who had contact with them so you can track down and, more importantly, stop the spread of any disease that may have hitched a ride.