University of Vermont

Healthy Farms - Healthy Agriculture

Birds goat photo by Krista Cheney, link to home page

Wildlife Biosecurity—

House sparrows, starlings, pigeons, and swallows commonly inhabit barns on livestock farms. Geese and wild turkeys often share ponds or pastures with livestock. Birds can spread salmonellosis and avian tuberculosis (which cross-reacts with bovine tuberculosis tests). They also can carry the organisms that cause enteric bacterial diseases, fungal diseases, Q fever and other diseases associated with mastitis and abortion, tapeworms and other parasites. Most of these diseases are also transmittable to humans.

Not only can birds spread disease onto healthy farms, but they can also be an expensive nuisance. A starling will eat 50% of its body weight in grain each day. Nests that are made in barns close to the heat of a light fixture or bad wiring can be a fire hazard.

canada goose photo by Ronald Laubenstein, U.S. Fish and Wildlife ServiceCanada goose trio birds by Ronald Laubenstein, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

To reduce the exposure of livestock to birds and their droppings, first evaluate the current presence of birds on the farm.

  • Identify places on the farm where birds like to nest, bathe, and perch.
  • Inspect the farm for places where there are lots of bird droppings.
  • Observe whether birds perch on or above livestock
  • Observe whether birds bathe in livestock water troughs.

Where birds are a problem, bird detractors should be considered. Options include recordings of distress calls, whistles that make an irritating sound, as well as visual detractors, bird netting, and reflectors. Use of these methods is still no guarantee that all birds will stay off the farm. Attracting raptors like Red-tailed Hawks may help.

Additional maintenance procedures should be followed to keep birds and droppings away from the herd's feed and water.

nest photo by Krista CheneyPhoto: Krista Cheney

  • Clean out water troughs and feed bunks daily.
  • Keep livestock away from ponds where birds congregate.
  • Keep stored feed well-covered.
  • Install screening to prevent birds from accessing barns.
  • Destroy nests and eggs of nuisance birds.
  • Thin stands of trees where starlings would roost.
  • Discourage migrating flocks of birds from stopping at your farm.

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Last modified October 06 2010 09:20 PM

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