Coronavirus: Tips for Keeping Your Farm Disease Free

©Debra L Ferguson Stock Photography

Agriculture is no stranger to contagious disease. Drawing on sanitation experiences from outbreaks, such as avian and swine influenza or the 2001 outbreak of foot and mouth disease in the United Kingdom in 2001, can help us through the current pandemic.

Looking back at many of these experiences, we know that we can pull together maybe from a distance and get through the current human viral outbreak and keep our farms running. Unless they are sick, farmers don’t usually tell their workers to stay home, but through keeping social distance on the farm and increasing many of our tried and true disinfection protocols, we can all stay healthy.

One big difference is that instead of disinfecting our boots, we need to disinfect all surfaces around us and all our employees touch. This may also be a good time to review the visitation requirements you have on your farm.

To keep you and your service providers safe, be sure to follow all their company requests and keep your distance when they come onto the farm or respect their calling instead of coming for a visit.

This first thing that came to mind looking around our farm and the feed tractor is the need to do a deep cleaning before any disinfectant can work. Most disinfectants won’t work if the surface has any organic material present. I often remember one professor at OSU saying “you can’t Disinfect shit.”

As a first step, wear a pair of disposable gloves and scrub all surfaces that are touched so that you can use a disinfectant on them.

Once all surfaces are clean, filling a one-gallon hand sprayer with disinfectant to spray all surfaces down at the end of each shift can be helpful. If this sprayer was previously used for pesticides, be sure to triple rinse it with a tank cleaning agent or ammonia. The EPA has many different disinfectant options available.

Concentration is very important, but a few common active ingredients on this list are sodium hypochlorite, sodium chlorite, ethanol, quaternary ammonia, and hydrogen peroxide. If using a bleach solution, the goal is a minimum of 1000 ppm sodium hypochlorite or for household bleach, 1/3 cup of bleach per gallon of water.

High Touch Surfaces

A few high touch surfaces to consider are tables, hard-backed chairs, doorknobs, light switches, power switches for large motors, phones, tablets, touch screens, keyboards, handles, desks, toilets, sinks, cabinet handles, mailbox handle, shop hand tools, welders, all tractor controls, tractor seats, hand rails, high touch areas in the barn, rattle paddles, all controls in milking parlor, and anything else people may touch.

Porous Surfaces on the Farm

For porous surfaces, such as tractor seats, it may be beneficial to wrap them in plastic to allow for better cleaning. Once wrapped in plastic, these surfaces can be treated the same as all other high touch areas. Vinyl seats should be treated as a hard surface, high touch.

Electronics

Discourage farm workers from using their personal electronic devices while at the farm. If you have an electronics cleaner, use that; otherwise, keyboards, mouse, and touch screens can be cleaned with at least a 70% alcohol disinfectant spray or wipe. Plastic covers may be available for keyboards and touch screens.

Sharing Objects

Be cautious when handling and sharing objects (e.g., pens, clipboard, etc.) that are used as part of your daily routine. Many objects are often used by multiple employees during the same or different shifts.

Hand-washing, disinfection, and wearing disposable gloves is recommended for all employees on the farm. If possible, provide additional supplies of these items that are typically shared and assign them to each employee, so they no longer must share them.

Additional considerations:

  • Have employees always wear gloves.
  • Each person should have their own welding gloves and other personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • When possible, assign a tractor to a single person.
  • Maintain the 6-foot social distance when having a conversation; stay a cow length apart.
  • Assign individual projects when safely possible (e.g., one shop project per person).
  • Put hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol in all machinery and work areas.



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