Coronavirus; Protecting Your People and Business

Published on Tue, 03/24/2020 - 9:04am

 Coronavirus; Protecting Your People and Business.

 By Michael Cox.

The rapid spread of the Coronavirus COVID-19 has startled many countries around the world as they try to come to terms with how best to handle this unprecedented pandemic. While some countries throughout Europe and Asia have adopted slightly different national responses to the crisis, such as regional or national lockdowns, declaring state or national emergencies etc. most experts believe that the crisis will be maintained and solved if people at an individual level adopt temporary new behaviors to limit the exponential spread of the disease. At farm level, dairymen can help to protect the team and the wider community by encouraging people to be conscious of the outbreak and adhere to the health recommendations.

Limiting Spread
It is believed that COVID-19 is transferred from person to person by close contact, coughing/sneezing or touching a contaminated object.

Thorough and regular washing of hands is to be recommended at more frequent levels on-farm. It is advisable to wear gloves, such as latex milking gloves as much as possible while on-farm so as to easily protect the palms of our hands from coming into contact with the disease. Ordinary everyday movements such as touching your face, your phone, shaking hands, smoking a cigarette etc. are now risk-prone movements. Although difficult to stop unconscious movements like this, farm managers should remind the team as often as possible through visual signs or verbal discussions to limit hand movements and wash hands as often as feasible.

Frequently used surfaces should be disinfected regularly, these include steering wheels, keyboards, door-knobs, light switches etc. etc. If a clothed elbow or fist can be used to carry out tasks such as turning on a light switch it will reduce the exposure of the hands to potentially infected surfaces.

Coughing/sneezing into a tissue or your elbow/sleeve is recommended.
Local area lockdowns and curfews that haven’t been seen since World War days have been enforced throughout parts of Europe in recent weeks. Social distancing on-farm can be difficult to carry out in practice, for example keeping people 6 feet away from each other in a milking barn may not be practical. Nevertheless, it is recommended to strive for as much social distancing as possible.
All non-essential visitors to the farm should be limited. Sales reps, service techs, AI techs, maintenance operators etc. can all pose a risk to the farm team by carrying the virus onto the farm. Essential visitors such as milk truck drivers also pose a risk. Limiting contact with these individuals is highly recommended. Although it’s natural to chat with a truck driver about the pandemic, social interactions such as this can further spread the disease. Maintaining 6 feet of distance at a minimum between people is recommended.

Staff on the farm team should be encouraged to take breaks and lunches individually and aim to keep distance from other people as far as practical. Staff should travel to and from work individually as much as possible. Outside of working hours, it is recommended that people isolate themselves in their homes and take only essential trips to town. If older people are in the home or older neighbors are living nearby, health experts suggest that they stay in the home and have someone else go to town for their essentials, such as buying groceries.

In some regards, dairy farms have an advantage to adopting these protocols as they are familiar with the necessary steps needed when a contagious animal health issue breaks out on-farm. Just like with an animal health issue, prevention, containment of the sick individual in the result of an outbreak, isolation of the sick individual, extra sanitization and increased protection for healthy animals in the herd are all excellent steps that should be transferred over from animal practices to human practices to help protect the farm team during this crisis.

If a member of the farm team believes they have symptoms, health experts recommend they isolate themselves in their home immediately and contact a local health professional for further advice.

Whilst the mortality rate for COVID-19 is a statistically low percentage of infected cases, the danger of the virus is that young and middle-aged people can contract the virus without any symptoms and spread the virus throughout the community. This spread ultimately will increase the death rate of more at-risk people if the virus becomes widespread. Isolation, sanitization and social distancing by young and middle-aged people will help to save the lives of at-risk individuals elsewhere in the wider community. Consulting with local health officials for advice will benefit dairymen to help continue the smooth running of their business in so far as possible during these challenging times.