When working in agriculture, the chances are high that either your operation or a neighboring operation has livestock. Additionally, rural locations are filled with a variety of wildlife. As a result, your GAP checklist should include steps to address the presence of animals and their effect on crops. Crop contamination from animals is a major threat to public health, and many aspects of a GAP audit are focused on preventative measures.
Identify & Address Potential Sources of Contamination
Animal waste contains pathogens that can make people sick and even put their lives at risk. If you have fields or orchards located near livestock, consider worst-case scenarios and make necessary adjustments to your operating procedures to prevent them. Contamination sources include direct contact between livestock and crops, faulty manure storage facilities, and runoff.
Livestock should never be allowed to pasture in growing areas. Animals should be fenced in as far away as possible and monitored frequently to ensure they can’t escape. Livestock also should not have access to any irrigation sources like surface water, wells, or water-pumping areas. Contaminants can easily be transferred from the water to crops.
Additionally, manure lagoons or storage facilities should be located as far away from crops and irrigation sources as possible. But regardless of their distance from fields or orchards, facilities should be checked regularly and maintained to prevent leaks. Lagoons also need to be pumped regularly to prevent overflows.
Addressing runoff is very important as well. Rainwater can quickly carry livestock pathogens from a perceived safe area to growing areas or irrigation sources. With that in mind, consider the options of diversion beams, runoff control structures, or vegetation buffers to keep polluted water from causing problems.
Maintain Livestock Health
Taking proper steps in livestock management will help keep the pathogen population low and reduce the chances of a disease outbreak. Livestock should be checked by a veterinarian regularly and kept up to date on vaccinations. The veterinarian should also be consulted to provide information about how to prevent pathogen transmission in the event an animal does get sick.
Address Wildlife Threats
It’s nearly impossible to completely eliminate the threats from wildlife. However, there are steps that can be taken to reduce threats as much as possible. Start by deterring wild animals from accessing fields or irrigation sources as much as possible. Use fences where possible, and remove additional animal attractants like excess water, tall weeds or brush, cull piles, and other food sources. Growing, storage, and packing areas should be inspected weekly (or more often when possible) for rodents, birds, insects, and other pests. Use screens, doors, or traps to deter or remove them.
When dealing with animals, it’s critical that cross-contamination is avoided. It’s essential that workers thoroughly wash their hands after coming into contact with animals or their waste, especially if they will be handling crops later. To make things easier, utilize portable sanitation equipment.
Portable sinks and toilets put sanitation within reach for workers regardless of where they are. All workers, whether in the fields or processing/packing areas, should be required to properly wash up and wear gloves. Handwashing and personal hygiene are topics that receive much consideration when it comes to GAP compliance. You can learn more by scrolling through our various blogs or by checking out our additional resources below.
In addition, cross-contamination can be caused by equipment or machinery. Whenever possible, avoid taking equipment/machinery into growing/harvesting areas that have been used to work with animals. This can include tractors driven in pastures or used to feed animals and trucks used to transport animals. If equipment or machinery must be used for both crops and livestock, it should first be thoroughly washed, dried, and sanitized.
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