A farm is one business operation that can cause severe environmental damage which in turn affects livestock, wild animals, plants, and humans.
Farm management does not only mean to operate a farm business to generate the end production or income but to manage the environment through which the end product or the income is realized.
In general, farm environments are contaminated by hazardous objects, chemicals, and pathogens. Some of these contaminants are part of the useful items for certain farm activities; for example, the herbicides used for controlling weeds.
Therefore, a farm management plan should include aspects of pollution and waste management, and farm hygiene and sanitation practices amongst others. This is to ensure that the farm production activities do not deteriorate the production environment or the risk of environmental contamination is minimized to acceptable levels. The farm resources at risk of contamination include water, soil, humans and livestock amongst others. This suggests that the farm management plan should contain an “emergency response plan”. The common farm items that contaminate the environment and pose health hazards to both human and livestock, in particular, are; veterinary products, oil, herbicides, human waste, plastic materials, bones, and wires amongst others. Most health hazards on the farm are associated with inappropriate storage, use, disposal, and the general cleanliness of the farm.
Different farm inputs have different storage requirements. Thus, the farm storage facilities should conform to such requirements. For example, vaccines need to be stored under certain temperature ranges, thus, the fridge should be set to such a range. Most importantly, a harmful substance such as herbicides, petroleum products, and cleaning agents should be stored separately away from livestock feeds, human food, and out of reach of people who do not have the knowledge to handle or use them. The farm emergency response plan should have measures to prevent and contain any spillage or leakage of these substances.
The use of products without reading or following the instruction is very common on farms. Farmers should always ensure that any product they are buying has a label and the instructions are readable. Every person, especially the farmworkers who will have access to any product or material should be well informed on the storage and use of the products.
Many farm environments are filled with waste materials or items exposed to livestock, wildlife and humans. These include bottles, plastic containers, plastics bags, building rubbles, bones, etc. these items can cause serious harm to the animals and people. For example, the most common problem on farms is the ingestion of plastic bags and bones by livestock causing significant production losses.
The farm management plan should make provision for safe disposal of refuse materials in accordance with environmental health protocols. One key aspect of safety on a farm is hygiene. This refers to the habits of ensuring a healthy environment. This is mainly ensured by cleaning the farm premises, be it buildings, livestock handling facilities, and most importantly personnel hygiene and protection.
For example, aborting animals can contaminate the kraals or humans with bacteria, thus, aborted foetuses should be safely disposed of (e.g. buried and burned), the person handling them should wear protective clothing and the premises (e.g. kraal) should be disinfected. One of the most important facilities on the farm is the toilet.
The common “bush toilets” are a health hazard, and this is often ignored. Livestock diseases such as measles result from parasites contaminating these bush toilets. This economic disease will lead to condemnation of carcasses at slaughter abattoirs. Thus, there should be enough ablution facilities on the farm and should be accessible by all.
In conclusion, a farm should be a safe habitat for livestock and humans, thus, every farm operation should include environmental cleanliness as a key activity in the overall farm management plan.
* This article is compiled by Erastus Ngaruka, Technical Officer: Livestock within Agribank’s