National Cervid Farm-Level Biosecurity Standard
Chapter 1: Introduction and background

1.1 What is biosecurity?

BiosecurityFootnote 1 is used to protect the health of animals from infectious diseases. It is a set of principles and practices that are used to reduce the risks posed by pathogens and pests. The biosecurity standard provides measures that cervid producers may take to minimize the introduction of pathogens and pests onto a farm, their spread within the operation, and release off the farm.

Biosecurity may be defined as a set of practices used to minimize the presence of pests and the transmission of pathogens in animal and plant populations including their introduction (bio-exclusion), spread within the populations (bio-management), and release (bio-containment).

Biosecurity relies on the consistent use of a combination of procedural measures and physical barriers designed to disrupt the transmission of pathogens. These measures and barriers target opportunities for pathogen transmission that occur during routine animal care (e.g. contact with potentially contaminated equipment or materials), risks posed by less frequent activities (e.g. introduction of new animals to the herd) and changing risks (e.g. increased movement of animals and people onto and off of a property). To be effective, biosecurity measures must be applied consistently day to day, and on an ongoing basis.

The threat of infectious disease is always present. In the context of most farm operations, completely eliminating all threats is usually impractical and not achievable. Therefore, at the farm level, it is more appropriate to view biosecurity in terms of risk management, rather than risk elimination.

Biosecurity requires balancing the:

  • risk of disease transmission;
  • consequences of disease occurring; and
  • measures required to minimize disease.

The level of disease risk that is considered acceptable is likely to vary among cervid producers based on their business goals, species raised, management practices, products marketed and individual risk tolerances. These factors should be taken into account when developing premises-specific biosecurity plans. Ideally, plan development should be accomplished with the assistance of a veterinarian familiar with the cervid industry and the internal and external disease threats. Biosecurity plans must be practical, achievable and sustainable. Because the consequences of disease are many and far reaching, cervid producers should not look at their own biosecurity and risk tolerance without consideration of the industry as a whole.

Biosecurity is not a new concept. Many daily activities that cervid producers perform include biosecurity measures. Many biosecurity measures are not difficult or expensive to implement.

1.2 Why is biosecurity important in the cervid industry?

Animal health, welfare and food safety are intricately linked. Society demands that farm raised animals are well cared for, free of disease and the products obtained are safe and of high quality. Freedom from disease and a high herd health status are important in Canada's cervid industry which raises elk, red deer, white-tailed deer, fallow deer, mule deer and reindeer. High herd health status facilitates market access, which is important for promoting the wide variety of cervid products which include meat antler velvet, hard antler, trophy animals, and breeding stock.

The impacts of infectious disease in cervids can be significant and devastating. Disease can range from mild illness to death, from sporadic cases to extensive disease outbreaks. Even mild disease can result in chronic or permanent damage, decreased production (e.g. reproduction, product, and growth), increased financial costs, welfare concerns and potential risks to human health. Farms and facilities with poor biosecurity may become a significant risk to the industry. Every cervid producer should have a biosecurity plan which is implemented and reviewed on an ongoing basis. The benefits of biosecurity may include:

  • Protecting human and animal health by:
    • enhancing animal health and welfare by reducing the negative outcomes of disease which may include: decreased production, decreased function, permanent disability and occasionally death;
    • reducing the transmission of endemic, newly emerging, and foreign animal diseases within the cervid and other livestock industries;
    • reducing the transmission of zoonotic diseases (diseases that can be spread from animals to people) including salmonellosis, clostridial diseases, ringworm, and tuberculosis; and
    • reducing the need for and use of antimicrobials and fostering good antimicrobial stewardship.
  • Protecting producers and the economy by:
    • reducing direct costs for the treatment of disease;
    • reducing indirect costs due to poor production;
    • reducing indirect costs to the cervid industry from reduced domestic and international market access;
    • improving domestic and international demand for cervid products among retailers and consumers through increased confidence in Canadian cervid products; and
    • increasing prices that producers receive for their animals and products, driven by increased confidence in the superior quality and safety of Canadian cervid products.
  • Protecting the environment by:
    • minimizing the contamination of farmland due to shedding of pathogens and parasites; and
    • reducing disease transmission by environmental contamination at the interface of wild and farmed animals.

1.3 Purpose of a national standard

This document has been developed to serve as a national voluntary standard that supports a nationally consistent approach to managing infectious diseases in the cervid industry. It contains guidelines and recommendations to assist cervid producers in minimizing infectious disease risks and in developing farm-specific biosecurity plans. It is a resource to create awareness, to educate, to provide a common understanding of biosecurity practices and to serve as a guide for continuous industry improvement. The standard recognizes the importance of the cervid industry in Canada and signifies an ongoing commitment by industry and government to protect the health and welfare of farmed cervids. The standard is also intended to serve as a resource to guide industry and government programming in biosecurity, and to complement existing disease management, animal welfare, and food safety programs and practices. This document is not intended to be adopted by federal, provincial, or territorial governments to be used for law or regulation.

1.4 Process for development of the standard

Under Growing Forward (2009-2013), Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) provided funding to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) to develop and approve, in collaboration with industry, National Farm-Level Biosecurity Standards for priority agri-commodities as prioritized by a Federal, Provincial and Territory (FPT) Committee of biosecurity officials. These included beef, dairy, equine sheep, goats, mink, bees, potatoes, and grains and oilseeds. National Standards also currently exist for the avian and swine sectors. Under Growing Forward 2 (2013-2018), the CFIA continues the development of National Farm-Level Biosecurity Standards for prioritized commodities which includes the cervid industry, along with the equine, fruit & tree nut, and the greenhouse, nursery & floriculture sectors.

The National Cervid Farm-Level Biosecurity Standard was developed through a coordinated set of activities over several years:

  • The Canadian Cervid Alliance, (CCA) after being approached by the CFIA, agreed to partner with the Agency in the development of a National Farm-Level Biosecurity Standard;
  • The formation of a biosecurity advisory committee of industry stakeholders/experts to guide the development process (see duties below);
  • A literature review and analysis of biosecurity gaps (relative to existing programming) to guide standard development;
  • The development of an outcomes-based biosecurity standard and a producer guide which provides more detailed information on how outcomes may be achieved;
  • Consultation and refinement of the standard and guide with industry stakeholders on and through the biosecurity advisory committee to achieve finalized documents; and
  • Endorsement by the Canadian Cervid Alliance and the CFIA of the document as the National Farm-Level Biosecurity Standard for the Cervid Industry.

1.4.1 Role of the cervid biosecurity advisory committee (CerBAC)

The CerBAC guided the development of a National Farm-Level Biosecurity Standard and Producer Guide for the Cervid Industry. Committee members:

  • Participated in drafting the standard by representing the broad interests of their organization;
  • Identified biosecurity risks and challenges faced by the industry;
  • Advised on biosecurity programming and best practices;
  • Communicated with their organization to share knowledge and obtain feedback to ensure the standard is science-based, practical and addressed the risks and challenges faced by the industry;
  • Encouraged the adoption and implementation of biosecurity practices across the industry; and
  • Participated in conference calls and face-to-face meetings as required.

This standard represents a consensus amongst diverse stakeholder groups. Consensus results in a decision that everyone agrees advances cervid biosecurity but does not imply unanimous endorsement of every aspect of the standard.

1.4.2 Composition of the advisory committee

The CerBAC is comprised of stakeholders representing the broad scope of the cervid industry, including producers, industry associations, veterinarians, academia, and federal (CFIA and AAFC) and provincial governments (see Appendix 2 for CerBAC membership).

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