Defra survey highlights risks of disease in animal feed storage units

Friday, 5 January 2024

Following a survey in late 2023, Defra have released advice to cattle farmers to help reduce the risks of disease in animal feed storage units.

Defra’s advice highlights the importance of cleaning animal feed storage areas, containers and equipment regularly and thoroughly to maintain healthy and productive animals, avoid unnecessary contamination and reduce the risk of disease on your farm. 

Regular cleaning of feed storage facilities – silos, floors, bays, bins – prior to receipt of new feed deliveries is vital to maintain healthy, productive and profitable animals. Remnants of old feed can become trapped in joints,  grooves and crevices with the potential to remain in place for many years, causing feed spoilage and illness from mould and contaminants and reduce feed quality.

Where feed storage on farms pre-dates August 1996, farmers are advised to decommission and replace feed silos, as this will reduce the potential risk of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE). If this is not possible, it is highly recommended that a thorough clean, inside and out, is carried out as soon as possible to ensure any potential for remnants of old feed are removed. Dry or vacuum methods are preferred, followed by use of disinfectant. A professional cleaning service may be helpful where deep cleaning is challenging.

BSE in cattle was caused by cattle eating rendered animal products contaminated with the BSE agent. A very small amount of contaminated feed can infect an animal with the BSE agent. Due to a ban in 1996 on animal proteins in feed for farm animals, cases of classical BSE are now rare, but cases do still occasionally occur. Strict monitored reviewed controls remain in place in the UK to protect people from BSE.

What Defra’s advice includes

  • Where to store your animal feed – Your options explained and their benefits
  • Information on old silos – For silos predating August 1996, replace them to eliminate BSE risk. If not possible, thoroughly clean inside and out, removing old feed remnants, and always ensure it's dry before storing fresh feed
  • Cleaning advice and methods – Establish an effective, documented system to regularly empty and clean storage units. Do this before new feed consignments, aiming for at least every 12 months. To minimise contamination risk, you should avoid moisture, and use vacuum cleaning for old feed residues
  • Residue recommendations – Utilise dry or vacuum methods to remove feed residues, particularly in joints and grooves. Thoroughly clean troughs and hoppers
  • Disinfecting advice – Apply a suitable Defra-approved disinfectant after cleaning, especially with wet methods and dry your storage facility before refilling
  • Organisation ideas – Consider the type and condition of your stored products. Your storage area should keep your products clean, dry and orderly. Organise your storage facilities to allow for enough space to separate each product, and for each product to be identified easily 
  • Record-keeping suggestions – Keep detailed records of cleaning activities, noting date, time, location, areas or equipment cleaned, and cleaning products used. Retain records for at least seven years

To learn more about the potential risk of disease, including BSE, from feed storage on your farm, and keep your animals healthy, productive and profitable, visit: Reduce disease risk from animal feed storage units on GOV.UK.

Download the APHA guide on reducing disease risk from feed storage units: Advice for cattle farmers