Prevent foot and mouth disease with good hygiene measures

The highly contagious foot and mouth disease has serious economic consequences worldwide. The prevention and control of the disease is achieved in large part by cleanliness and hygiene in the barn and on a farm. Professional cleaning equipment and routines enable livestock farmers to maintain high standards of cleanliness – and thereby reduce the likelihood of the disease breaking out.

Cleaning helps prevent foot and mouth disease

Cleaning helps prevent foot and mouth disease

Preventing and controlling foot and mouth disease (FMD) is a task that concerns farmers and veterinarians worldwide. It is a dangerous infectious disease that primarily affects cattle, pigs, sheep and goats. Wild animals such as deer and roe deer can also contract foot and mouth disease, as can wild boar.

Foot and mouth disease is highly contagious and one of the animal diseases that has the greatest economic impact worldwide. That is why it is so important to take all possible measures to prevent foot and mouth disease – and to effectively control the disease in the event of an outbreak. In the prevention and at the end of an outbreak, it is the hygiene in barns, on the farm and during the transport of animals that plays a key role.

Foot and mouth disease cannot affect humans, but barn and transport staff can contribute to the spread of the virus and need to adhere to the hygiene rules.

Hygiene measures in the prevention of foot and mouth disease

Infection routes in foot and mouth disease

Infection of foot and mouth disease can be both direct and indirect. During the virus’ incubation period, infected animals are highly contagious.

  • Direct infection is from animal to animal, for example in a barn, during transport or at livestock markets.
  • Indirectly, the virus is passed on via transport vehicles, human carriers, rodents, milk and semen.

Cattle are infected mainly via the respiratory tract, pigs orally, i.e. when drinking, eating or burrowing in the soil. The virus is relatively environmentally stable and can also be transmitted over longer distances via the air.

Recognize foot and mouth disease symptoms

Different animal species react differently to foot and mouth disease infection.

In cattle, the benign form of the disease kills 2 to 5 percent of the animals; in the malignant form, the morbidity rate is up to 80 percent. The damage caused by FMD is horrific – inflammations, changes in the claws, muscle weakness, compromised general condition and greatly reduced capacity.

In pigs, the disease is less dramatic, but sudden deaths occur in suckling piglets. In sheep and goats, the signs of disease are more inconspicuous.


Areas of foot and mouth disease occurance

Foot and mouth disease is spread pretty much across the world. It is only New Zealand that has never reported a case. In some countries, however, the last occurrence was a long time ago.

Foot and mouth disease is most common in Africa, Asia and parts of South America. It is less common in Europe. Despite strict veterinary surveillance, however, it is repeatedly re-introduced and poses a constant threat to livestock due to its high infection rate.

The last major outbreak in 2001 in the UK also spread to mainland Europe and led to the death of 4 million animals. Another outbreak in 2007 was successful in preventing the spread of the disease to other regions.

Control and prevention of foot and mouth disease

Legal regulations

Legal regulations

In the EU, even a suspected case of foot and mouth disease must be reported. If there is a suspicion of FMD, the farm will be closed. If the case is confirmed, all animals must be culled, as must neighbouring livestock within a radius of one kilometre.

Within a radius of 3 kilometres there is a ban on transporting animals for 15 days, after which only trips to slaughter are allowed with special permission. Milk is processed separately. A monitoring area is established within a radius of 10 kilometres.

Measures are often taken when there are confirmed FMD cases in neighbouring countries. For example, during major epidemics, care tyres are disinfected at the country's borders.

If no new FMD cases occur for 30 days, all affected farms and means of transport are cleaned and disinfected, and rats and mice are inspected. It is only at this point that the outbreak can be declared over and the transport restrictions lifted.

Cleanliness and hygiene measures against the FMD virus

From the many different infection routes, it follows that effective prevention of foot and mouth disease requires a whole range of measures. Cleanliness and hygiene play a key role here.

Attaining a high level of biosecurity requires professional cleaning and disinfection of barns and all equipment and machinery which contact animals. As a general rule, thorough cleaning must happen before disinfection. This is because a disinfectant is only really effective on cleaned surfaces.

Barn cleaning and disinfection with a high pressure cleaner and detergent

The most important equipment for thorough and efficient barn cleaning, in addition to a shovel and wheelbarrow, is a high-pressure cleaner. A hot water high-pressure cleaner is best. Alternatively, a coldwater high-pressure cleaner is also suitable. A high pressure cleaner should be equipped with a cup foam lance – not only for the disinfectant, but also to apply cleaning agent beforehand. Cold water alone is not sufficient to achieve the necessary level of cleanliness to combat FMD.

Furthermore, a surface cleaner as well as a walk-behind sweeper are among the essential cleaning devices. A wet and dry vacuum cleaner and, in larger facilities, a scrubber-dryer are also recommended for cleaning changing rooms.

Cleaning routines differ from species to species:

Comprehensive hygiene measures in cattle and dairy farming

Hygiene is an essential part of biosecurity in dairy and cattle farming. The correct cleaning processes around birthing and rearing sensitive calves in the barn, along the feed supply chain as well as in the milking parlour play an important role. Learn the essentials and which cleaning technique is best suited to each case.

Cleaning and disinfecting pigsties

Cleaning and disinfecting pigsties every time a pig is re-housed is a considerable effort. However, it is worth the effort to ensure clean floors, walls and ceilings, feeding systems and partitions – from farrowing pens to heat nests and fattening compartments. With the right equipment and cleaning agents, as well as an efficient approach, labour costs for pig house cleaning and disinfection remain reasonable. In addition, a farmer can fill the barn with the next herd of pigs immediately after the cleaning is done.

Preventive measures against foot and mouth disease

Certain preventive measures can provide protection in the event of FMD cases, but also as general preventive measures without a confirmed case. This reduces the likelihood that your own farm will be affected by a new outbreak of the disease:


  • Buy animals only from a few, known and trustworthy herds or at trustworthy auctions.
  • Ensure that disinfection tubs are available at the sales place for arriving and departing vehicles.


  • Transport animals as seldomly as possible.
  • Ideally use your own animal transporter to have control over compliance with preventive measures against FMD.
  • Clean and disinfect livestock transporter after each trip.
Cleaning floors and outdoor surfaces using a sweeper

Cleaning a cattle trailer

Whether it's a small trailer used to drive five pigs to the slaughterhouse or a large vehicle on the way to a shipment station, livestock transporters should be treated the same when it comes to cleaning and disinfection, regardless of size. It is only the cleanliness and hygiene during the transport of cows, pigs and poultry ensure that the transmission of pathogens such as the foot and mouth disease virus from animal to animal or to humans is prevented.


  • Control mice and rats inside and outside the barns.
  • The first step in controlling pests and rodents is throroughly cleaning the barn and yard. It’s only in a freshly cleaned barn and a regularly swept yard that rodent droppings will be detected. In addition, mice and rats find less food in a swept yard and regularly cleaned barns. Cleaning the yard is most efficiently done with a ride-on sweeper.

Staff work clothes

  • Don’t allow external staff into the barn.
  • Do not permit visits to neighbouring farms whilst you’re wearing your own barn clothes.
  • Provide disinfected stable boots and clean work clothes washed at at least 60 °C or disposable clothes.
  • Changing rooms at the entrance to the barn must be kept clean and disinfected regularly. A surface cleaner, a wet and dry vacuum cleaner are suitable, but, in the case of larger rooms, a scrubber dryer is helpful for cleaning the floor.
  • Set up disinfection tubs at the entrance to the barn and lay out disinfection mats at all access roads to the farm. Change the disinfectant regularly according to the manufacturer's instructions.


  • Clean shared machines with the hot water high-pressure cleaner or with a cold water high-pressure cleaner with detergent before handover and disinfect afterwards.

Cleaning of agricultural machinery and implements

Agricultural machinery and implements are often one of the biggest investments in an agricultural business. This makes regular cleaning all the more important as this helps to maintain the function and value of tractors, power harrows and other similar machinery. This prevents having to fork out for breakdowns and repairs, and improves the condition of the machines and implements.

Other measures around the farm:

  • Do not feed food waste.
  • Confine poultry, do not let cats and dogs in the yard.
  • Do not deliver milk from the farm.
  • Meticulously clean and disinfect milking parlours.
  • Do not allow carcass disposal vehicles to enter the premises.
    Ideally, no non-farm vehicles will come to the farm at all and new animals or feed are delivered from outside.
  • Establish a quarantine barn for new animals, which is thoroughly cleaned and disinfected before and after each occupancy.
    The animals in the quarantine stall should be last in a daily routine. This prevents pathogens from being carried from the quarantine barn to the other barns.

Milking parlour cleaning

Your cow herd likely passes through the milking parlour every day. A lot of dirt is left behind – manure, protein and fat residues as well as milk residues, limescale and urine deposits. Cleaning the milking parlour regularly is therefore essential. The right cleaning equipment is also key to cleanliness in the milk store and at the milk tank in order to ensure the necessary hygiene conditions along the entire production chain.

Prevent and control foot and mouth disease using disinfectant

The FMD virus is very resistant. It persists for months in the soil, in the barn, in waste or in the litter and can cause new cases of the disease again and again. It can only be rendered harmless with acid or high temperatures.

Generally, citric or formic acid is used for disinfection. Disinfection using formaldehyde or heat is also possible. This requires a minimum of 60 °C – a temperature achieved by a modern hot water high-pressure cleaner with a proven germ-reducing effect.
Animal owners should follow the veterinary recommendations for disinfectant in force in their country.

Barn disinfection

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