Biosecurity for Dairy Herds

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Biosecurity is becoming increasingly important to the Canadian dairy sector, which continues to evolve toward fewer, larger farms with high-producing animals. This sector provides Canadians with wholesome milk and dairy products, and is also the source of valuable genetics for the international marketing of semen and embryos.

Bovine diseases

The global emergence and re-emergence of bovine diseases in recent years has had a major impact on the cattle industry, both within Canada and abroad. Outbreaks of contagious diseases such as Foot and Mouth Disease in cattle in other countries have resulted in significant economic losses for cattle industries, as well as animal health and environmental concerns. These kinds of incidents emphasize the need for a comprehensive, coordinated approach to bovine biosecurity.

Led by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), federal, provincial and territorial governments are continuously collaborating with industry and the public to implement and augment bovine biosecurity programs aimed at reducing disease transmission and protecting the interests of Canadians.

Sources of bovine diseases

Disease in dairy cattle and other bovine animals can be spread in a number of ways, including:

  • through diseased cattle or healthy cattle incubating disease;
  • through animals other than cattle (farm animals, pets, wild birds and other wildlife, vermin and insects);
  • on the clothing and shoes of visitors and employees moving from farm-to-farm;
  • in contaminated feed, water, bedding and soil;
  • from the carcasses of dead animals;
  • on contaminated farm equipment and vehicles; or
  • in airborne particles and dust blown by the wind.

Biosecurity principles for dairy herds

Some of the basic biosecurity principles for the dairy sector include:

  • Isolation:
    • Only obtain new animals from reputable sources.
    • Isolate sick animals from the rest of the herd.
    • Limit the frequency of introducing new animals to the herd.
    • Isolate any new animals or animals returning to the herd.
    • Separate cattle by age or production groups.
  • Sanitation:
    • Routinely clean and disinfect buildings, barns, equipment, clothing and footwear.
    • Designate a cleaning area for vehicles and equipment.
    • Promptly dispose of dead animals.
    • Implement a manure management program.
    • Avoid borrowing equipment and vehicles from other farms.
  • Traffic control:
    • Control visitors' access to the herd.
    • Prevent birds, rodents, pets and other animals from coming into contact with the herd.
    • Require all visitors to wear clean boots, clothing and gloves.
    • Maintain records of the movement of people, animals and equipment on and off the premises.
    • Make sure all suppliers and other farm visitors follow your biosecurity measures.
  • Herd health management:
    • Monitor herd health daily.
    • Identify all animals with proper ear tags for traceability.
    • Employ veterinary services to help implement herd health programs.
    • Vaccinate cattle against certain diseases.
    • Immediately report any signs of illness to your veterinarian or the nearest CFIA office.
  • Program maintenance:
    • Train all staff in the application of your biosecurity program.
    • Regularly monitor the effectiveness of the program.
    • Be aware of any diseases in your area and adjust your biosecurity program to meet specific needs, as required.
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