Meeting teaches youth importance of biosecurity

Julia Baratta, Freelance Writer
Bryce Hekter smears peanut butter on various materials in order to demonstrate the difficulty in removing it. This makes it hard to disinfect if the waste cannot be taken care of completely.

For anyone who owns animals, bio-security is one word to be understood and dealt with as it becomes a concern. Exposure to livestock needs to be a positive experience where the public learns about animals ownership and proper care. Unfortunately, sometimes people are exposed to more than just the animal’s cuteness factor. It is a very important subject to share with young people and what better way than through the 4-H program?

During the series of required animal meetings for members in St. Joseph County (MI), one offering dealt with this issue. Dr. Susi Baer, a Senior Field Veterinarian with the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) presented on several ways to prevent the exchange of illnesses between species, namely humans and animals.

“Good bio-security keeps all animals healthy,” Baer said. “It also provides a successful event.”

The Tyvex suit was demonstrated by Bailey Miracle, a 4-H member from St. Joseph County, MI. The meeting topic was biosecurity and was presented by Dr. Susi Baer of MDARD.

She shared a basic science lesson on the various possibilities including viruses, bacteria, and parasites. Baer broke down information about each one, providing examples for the children to relate to. She told them what causes the animals to get sick and how to identify the disease in order to get the proper care. Baer was explicit on the details of how to avoid problems by getting the animals vaccinated, feeding them good nutrition, parasite control, keeping their housing clean, and keeping stress to a minimum.

“I am encouraging healthy practices for both the animals and the exhibitors,” she said. “We want the fair experience to be good for everyone.”

Interspersing quizzes during her talk, Baer gave an interactive presentation with the young people giving their thoughts on the questions. The first two were true/false while the last one was slightly unusual. It was a picture quiz where the attendees pointed out the problems within the drawing of a farm.

After the talk was completed, Baer invited some young people from the audience to demonstrate how to “clean” animal housing and the proper way to put on a Tyvex suit as well as take it off.

The volunteer wiped peanut butter on several different surfaces with the intention of seeing how difficult it is to fully clean the “poop” off and keep the areas sanitary. He wiped it on metal, plastics, wood, and rags. Baer showed the group which surfaces disinfect the best, therefore becoming the most desirable building materials.

Dr. Susi Baer encourage participation from a groups of 4-H members with a picture quiz. There are eight different things that are wrong with the drawing.

A Tyvex suit with its accompanying boot bags and gloves was demonstrated with questions being asked of the members such as why was the volunteer starting in her “truck” and how to keep the clean and the dirty separate. The boot bags go on first with the suit going on next. This suit is a full body covering with a hood. Gloves are added and connected to the suit with duct tape. A mask completes the ensemble. To remove it, the volunteer literally starts from the top of their head and rolls it down their body. The end result is a bundle of soiled clothing ready to be discarded by the farmer.

While husbandry, training, and care for animals is very important, the subject of bio-security should always be approached and shared. Providing this information will broaden the young person’s experiences and make them a more informed 4-H member and a better citizen.