Canadian Beef Cattle On-Farm Biosecurity Standard
Getting Started

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Reviewing and/or developing a biosecurity program may feel like an overwhelming task; however, the tools in this implementation manual will facilitate the process. Biosecurity is a team effort and we suggest that you involve your staff, members of your family and your veterinarian. You will quite possibly consider other material as well.

To simplify the process of reviewing and/or developing a biosecurity program, break it down into manageable steps using a structured approach:

  • Step 1: Create a list of the locations of all land/sites used by the operation for cattle production and identify the key activities that occur there.
  • Step 2: Prepare a farm diagram(s).
  • Step 3: Review the four elements of a biosecurity program.
  • Step 4: Conduct a biosecurity farm self-assessment.
  • Step 5: Analyze the self-assessment for gaps/weaknesses and prioritize issues.
  • Step 6: Establish an action plan.

Step 1

Create a list of the locations of all land/sites used by the operation for cattle production and identify the key activities that occur there.

Documenting the locations of all land used for cattle production, providing a brief description of the land/area, and identifying the key activities that occur there provides a summary of the farming operation. This facilitates biosecurity planning, particularly the ability to identify and structure movement and traffic flows between sites.

Step 2

Prepare a Farm Diagram(s): see Figure 2 below.

Preparing a farm diagram allows you and others to quickly identify key aspects of the farm operation, traffic flows, areas that are creating difficulty managing the site, and (following some planning) what adjustments might be made to improve farm biosecurity practices.

If multiple land parcels / different locations are being used to raise cattle, focus on the sites where herd health management activities occur, including those sites with barns, pens, corrals, chutes, and treatment areas. Crown pasture and leased pasture/range, while important sites at which to manage risk, pose obvious difficulties when establishing and depicting zones and traffic flows; written notes for staff on managing the risks may suffice for these.

This manual makes reference to farm layout and traffic flow. "Farm layout" refers to the physical location of facilities, i.e. farmyard, holding pens, handling facilities, manure storage etc. "Traffic flow" refers to the routes by which cattle, people, and vehicles move to, from and between facilities within the operation, i.e. routes to and from handling facilities, manure storage, roadways etc.

Farm layout and traffic flow can result in risks that contribute to disease, and therefore are important to biosecurity. The following diagram and details provide additional information as to how this occurs.

Diagram of a common to the Beef Cattle Industry. Description follows.
Description of Farm Diagram

Figure 2 depicts 3 beef production scenarios commonly encountered in Canada - these include Feedlots, Pastures and Ranges.

Located at the far left is the Feedlot Scenario in which the production area (corrals, pens, pastures and range) are represented by a yellow rectangle situated within a larger Farmyard (which may include a house, office, garage, equipment storage, parking) represented by a red rectangle.

Moving to the right is the Pasture Scenario in which a small farmyard (red rectangle) is contained within a much larger Production area (yellow rectangle). The production area is bounded by surrounding lands (represented by a green rectangle).

At the far right is the Range Scenario in which multiple range production areas (yellow rectangles) are depicted. Some range production areas may be adjacent to one another, while others are separated by varying distances. A farmyard (red rectangle) is located distant from any of the range production areas (yellow rectangle)

Figure 2: Farm Diagram

Most beef cattle operations are loosely based on the operational types depicted by the simple farm diagrams above

Most operations will also have the following facilities:

  • Farmyard and/or office area, generally on the premises, but cattle are not typically held here (e.g. houses, office, driveways, parking, machinery buildings, etc.)
  • Production Area, where cattle are or may be held, e.g. pastures, corrals, pens, barns, range, etc.

Surrounding lands: Use a diagram, aerial photo, or satellite image to create a farm diagram for your operation. Identify the outer boundaries of the Farmyard in amber, and the Production Areas in red. Knowing the boundaries between these areas will help you establish and maintain appropriate levels of biosecurity for different areas within your operation. Producers generally want higher biosecurity in the Production Area, where cattle may be held.

Identify the current location of specific facilities – This is your farm layout, and it may include the farmyard and access points, production areas and access points, road or commonly used path ways, residences, visitor parking, personnel parking, the deadstock holding area, feed storage and feeding areas, manure storage, manure storage for trucks being "cleaned out" prior to loading, segregation and sick animal holding areas, waterers, water courses and other significant facilities. Certain facilities can contribute to disease risks when they are located inside the Production Area, e.g. visitor parking, deadstock pick-up, and farm deliveries. By identifying the risks, there is an opportunity to reduce the risk by moving the facilities in question or establishing procedures to minimise them.

Considering traffic flows relative to the various facilities noted above may identify additional disease risks. For instance, routine movement through or past segregation or sick pens is a disease risk. A producer who is aware of such risks may have the opportunity to reduce them by altering traffic flows at some future time.

Refer to your farm diagram as you read this manual to identify and develop solutions to issues that are biosecurity risks.

Step 3

Review the broad components of a biosecurity program. There are 4 pillars:

  • Animal movements
  • Movements of people, vehicles, equipment and tools
  • Animal health practices
  • Educating, planning and recording

Review the primary activities that occur in your farm operation as they pertain to each of the pillars – Refer to the Summary of the Standard to assist in this process. The objective is to familiarize yourself with the broad categories of biosecurity and begin thinking about how the broad activities of your operation can be slotted into that framework.

Some of the activities may not pertain to the farm operation and can be skipped over (for the time being). At a later date, you may want to read and consider how the biosecurity principles in these other sections might be altered and put to use in addressing difficulties encountered on your site.

Step 4

Biosecurity Self-Assessment

Conduct a self-assessment of the biosecurity practices on the farm – there is a self assessment tool provided to assist with this. Indicate on the assessment whether the activity occurs most or all of the time (yes, Y), some of the time (sometimes, S), rarely or never (no, N), or is not applicable (N/A). Note: Do not identify elements as not applicable if they pertain to the farm operation, but are either not being done or you do not consider it important [e.g. If you introduce animals into the herd from an outside source, but do not isolate them or have an isolation area, identify the practice as (no, N)].

Step 4 – Biosecurity Self Assessment Checklist

Section 1

Step 4 – Biosecurity Self Assessment Checklist - Section 1
1. Biosecurity Practice: Manage and Minimize Animal Movements: Commingling, High-Risk and Highly Susceptible Animals: Do You… Yes Sometimes No N/A Notes
Take measures to limit the contact of your herd with animals from other operations? Box Box Box Box
Does this include ensuring that there is no fence-line contact with animals of other operations? Box Box Box Box
Does this include separating/removing cattle from other operations, which inadvertently may have become mixed with yours, as soon as possible? Box Box Box Box
Operate a closed herd by raising your own replacement animals and using your own bull or a health-tested bull from an outside source? Box Box Box Box
Consistently apply health practices to incoming animals (for all targeted diseases) before introducing them to the herd? Box Box Box Box
Consistently apply health practices to incoming animals or to animals that are returning, before re-introducing them to the herd? Box Box Box Box
Do these practices involve carefully observing animals for signs of illness? Box Box Box Box
Do these practices involve segregation? Box Box Box Box
Do these practices involve vaccination? Box Box Box Box
Do these practices involve testing for diseases? Box Box Box Box
Have designated areas been set aside for segregating new cattle? Box Box Box Box
Have you established criteria (e.g. negative test results, minimum length of time for segregation, etc.) segregated cattle must meet before they enter the main herd? Box Box Box Box
Do you place sentinel animals from your own herd with the segregated new cattle to monitor for disease? Box Box Box Box
Do you attempt to obtain animal health information before buying cattle, especially breeding stock (disease test results, vaccination and treatment history, (etc.)? Box Box Box Box
Do you attempt to obtain animal health information before commingling your cattle with cattle from other operations? Box Box Box Box
Segregate sick animals for treatment and care? Box Box Box Box
Work from younger or healthier animals to older higher risk animals, in your normal daily routine? Box Box Box Box
Use separate equipment or clean and disinfect equipment when working with sick animals? Box Box Box Box
Keep cattle of different age groups penned separately (does not apply to the housing of cow/calf pairs)? Box Box Box Box
Use your own trucks for transporting stock? Box Box Box Box
Use trucks from an outside source that have been cleaned and disinfected, to transport stock? Box Box Box Box
Number of Responses

Section 2

Step 4 - Biosecurity Self Assessment Checklist - Section 2
2. Biosecurity Practice: Manage the Movement of People and Vehicles, Equipment and Tools: Do You… Yes Sometimes No N/A Notes
Limit access to your animals to only those individuals required for their care and handling? Box Box Box Box
Restrict visitor access to your animals if the visitors have had recent (within 48 hours) contact with livestock / been on livestock premises? Box Box Box Box
Require visitors to clean and disinfect footwear or wear farm-designated footwear for entry to Production Area? Box Box Box Box
Require visitors to wear freshly laundered clothing or farm-designated clothing for entry to the Production Area? Box Box Box Box
Require equipment to be visibly clean if it will come into contact with animals? Box Box Box Box
Wet clean (wash) treatment tools between each use on sick animals (e.g. balling guns, stomach tube, etc.)? Box Box Box Box
Include a disinfection step in the cleaning process for treatment tools between each use on sick animals? Box Box Box Box
Apply sanitary procedures (wet cleaning) to equipment that was used for a "dirty" task such as handling manure or deadstock, before using it for a "clean" task like feeding? Box Box Box Box
Have gates at access points to your Farmyard and Production Area and ensure they are kept closed to prevent access by visitors? Box Box Box Box
Ensure fences and gates are maintained to prevent unplanned commingling of your animals with those from another operation? Box Box Box Box
Post biosecurity signs at access points to your Farmyard and Production Area? Box Box Box Box
Post procedures for visitors on the requirements necessary for entering the farm or production area? Box Box Box Box
Promptly remove dead animals from animal holding areas? Box Box Box Box
Prevent live animal access to deadstock storage areas? Box Box Box Box
Prevent live animal access to manure storage areas? Box Box Box Box
Take measures to prevent manure runoff, including that from neighbouring operations, from spreading to other areas of your operation? Box Box Box Box
Control pests that could spread disease (rodents, birds etc.) when possible? Box Box Box Box
Number of Responses

Section 3

Step 4 - Biosecurity Self Assessment Checklist - Section 3
3. Biosecurity Practice: Manage Animal Health Practices: Do You… Yes Sometimes No N/A Notes
Have a veterinarian that is familiar with your operation and herd health practices? Box Box Box Box
Have a herd health plan? Box Box Box Box
Do you review the heard health plan at least annually with your veterinarian? Box Box Box Box
Does the herd health plan include a herd vaccination plan? Box Box Box Box
Do you read and follow instructions provided on the manufacturer's labels for the handling and use of mediations/vaccinations? Box Box Box Box
Regularly monitor and inspect animals for signs of illness (e.g. daily where / when possible)? Box Box Box Box
Obtain a veterinary diagnosis for animals that appear to have died from disease or an unknown cause? Box Box Box Box
Know the health status of neighbouring livestock herds? Box Box Box Box
Purchase feed/supplements from suppliers who can verify the origin of the products and/or the production practices used? Box Box Box Box
Take measures to ensure feed and bedding is properly stored after harvest or delivery, including monitoring for contamination, mould and overall quality? Box Box Box Box
Remove old feed and manure from troughs, feedbunks and feeders before adding fresh feed? Box Box Box Box
Clean areas around troughs and feedbunks frequently by scraping? Box Box Box Box
Test water sources for cattle (particularly open water sources such as streams, ponds, dugouts) at least annually for disease pathogens and pests? Box Box Box Box
Number of Responses

Section 4

Step 4 - Biosecurity Self Assessment Checklist - Section 4
4. Biosecurity Practice: Educate / Plan/ Record: Do You… Yes Sometimes No N/A Notes
Maintain a written biosecurity plan? Box Box Box Box
Ensure all personnel are familiar with the biosecurity plan? Box Box Box Box
Know what your typical animal health situations are? Box Box Box Box
Have a standard response for typical animal health situations? Box Box Box Box
Know how you would determine if there was an unusual animal health situations? Box Box Box Box
Know how you would respond to an unusual health situation? Box Box Box Box
Keep vaccinations and treatment records for your animals? Box Box Box Box
Do you record disease incidents? Box Box Box Box
Do you record animal deaths and the suspected cause of death? Box Box Box Box
Keep these health records on an individual animal basis? Box Box Box Box
Keep a record of incoming cattle and where they were sourced from? Box Box Box Box
Keep a record of visitors to your operation? Box Box Box Box
Do you record if the visitors have had been previous (within the last 48 hours) contact with livestock? Box Box Box Box
Number of Responses

Step 5

Analyse Your Self-Assessment

For each section of the self assessment, identify how many responses were yes, sometimes and no.

Analyse Your Self-Assessment
Section Number of Yes Responses Number of Sometimes Responses Number of No Responses
1
2
3
4

Interpreting the Results

Yes Responses: Safe – meeting basic biosecurity practices, no action required.

Sometimes Responses: Warning – potential for failure of a biosecurity element, some action required.

No Responses: Alert – biosecurity gap identified, action required.

Which section has the largest number of no responses? This area requires the most action and might be the first area for you to focus on.

Prioritize the list - which are the most important risks?

All of the elements of a biosecurity program are important: the failure to address any one biosecurity element can result in a breakdown of the program and disease in the herd. However, some biosecurity elements will have a greater impact than others in the operation and it is important to prioritize the biosecurity risks that are identified and then establish an action plan to address them.

Step 6

Establish an action plan to mitigate the risk

Some of the risks will be easy to address and implement in a short period of time (e.g. establishing a location to change into farm-designated outer clothing or setting up a boot-wash station) while others may require six months or a year to complete (e.g. fencing or modifications to animal housing).

In general, short term activities (those that can be planned and implemented within 6 to 12 months):

  • are primarily changes in procedures;
  • require minimal investment in time and capital;
  • work within the existing framework of the farm operation (site layout, building construction/configuration, staffing levels, (etc.).

Longer term activities (those that can be planned and implemented over more than a year):

  • require some change to the infrastructure of the site, the buildings, farm layout (etc.);
  • require some investment in time and capital to complete.

Work with your veterinarian to establish the list of priorities and your staff to develop an action plan.

Are there specific changes in any of the 4 management areas that would improve biosecurity on your operation?
Biosecurity Section/Pillar Description of Biosecurity Gap Identified Suggested Corrective Actions
Animal movements
Movements of people, vehicles, equipment and tools
Animal health practices
Educating, planning and recording

What is the single most significant biosecurity challenge(s) to your operation?

Which diseases have you experienced on your operation within the last 3 years?

Can you and the appropriate staff identify these diseases?
Yes Box No Box
Diseases:

Do you have a plan(s) setting out the practices used to respond to these diseases?
Yes Box No Box
Describe the plan:

Are there biosecurity/herd health practices that could be implemented to reduce the re-occurrence of these diseases?
Yes Box No Box
Describe:

Are there particular diseases that could have huge impacts despite low/lower probability (e.g. bovine tuberculosis, anthrax, foot and mouth disease)?
Yes Box No Box
Diseases:

Could you or your staff identify these diseases?
Yes Box No Box
Diseases:

Do you have a plan setting out your initial response after identifying them?
Yes Box No Box
Describe the plan:

Risk Mitigation

Additional information to help mitigate the risks identified in the questions above is provided in the following sections of the Implementation Manual. As you work your way through it, return to these pages to record your thoughts on possible actions, in the margin note sections on the right. Having this information recorded in one location will help you in determining the mitigation actions most appropriate to your operation.

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