National Farm-Level Mink Biosecurity Standard
Section 2: Animal Health Management

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Animal Introduction, Movement and Removal

2.1 New Animals – Buy Clean

Many diseases, including ringworm, Aleutian disease, and even genetic diseases such as hereditary tyrosinemia can be brought onto a farm. The purchase of diseased and subclinically infected mink is one of the most significant methods of disease introduction.

Purchase breeding replacements or new genetic stock only from reputable breeders who disclose all potential health problems and who follow and document current science-based Aleutian disease control/eradication programs. Ideally, these programs would be developed collaboratively by industry and veterinary specialists (private practitioners and academia) and implemented at an industry level.

2.1.1 Target Outcome

Obtain new breeding stock from reputable breeders with healthy herds; verify herd health and, when warranted, treat new breeding stock with booster vaccinations and for other health issues such as injury during transport and parasites.

It should always be an objective to obtain healthy breeding stock from reputable breeders to minimize the possibility of introducing disease pathogens to farms from outside sources.

2.2 Scheduling Animal Movements

Every time new mink are introduced or resident mink are moved, there is the opportunity to introduce and transmit microbial pathogens by people, animals, birds, equipment, and supplies.

2.2.1 Target Outcome

Limit the frequency of new mink introductions and movements of all mink to reduce opportunities for the transmission of microbial pathogens.

Newly acquired mink pose a significant opportunity for disease introduction, affecting the health of the herd and the microbial pathogen load on the premises. Infected mink can shed microbial pathogens; however, not all infected mink may appear clinically ill, and this can occur

  • early in the course of an illness before clinical signs appear;
  • when the microbial pathogen only causes mild illness; and/or
  • after a mink appears to have clinically recovered from an illness, but may still be shedding pathogens.

2.2.2 Target Outcome

Maximize downtime between mink groups on the premises and in the housing area.

The microbial pathogen load can be reduced in the absence of a host to maintain it. Downtime, leaving pens and sheds empty, allows for the natural reduction in numbers of disease-causing pathogens within the herd/housing area and for appropriate removal of organic material and a thorough cleaning and disinfection process.

To maximize microbial pathogen reduction in pens/sheds, the area that has been emptied should be clearly separated from other housing areas that contain live mink to avoid cross contamination and re-contamination. Although the full turnover of mink on a premises (all in – all out) is unlikely to occur, mink sheds or areas within the shed should be cleaned, disinfected, and left empty for two to three weeks whenever mink are moved.

2.2.3 Target Outcome

Practise strict biosecurity measures when handling mink.

Mink pens provide a secure environment that can mitigate the contact by mink with infected animals and contaminated people, equipment, and materials. Handling exposes mink to a much broader array of risks – the contamination and microbial pathogens encountered by these people, equipment, materials, and other animals. The pelting process poses a risk for shedding microbial pathogens, and thus care must be taken to ensure breeding animals are not exposed.

2.3 Isolation Procedures – Stay Clean

Separating activities by time, carefully planning the procedures, having designated equipment and areas, along with effective biosecurity procedures, are critical to ensuring that isolation procedures are effective.

2.3.1 Target Outcome

Each premises has a sufficient number of pens to physically isolate new mink arrivals from the main herd, and has isolation procedures to minimize the transmission of microbial pathogens.

Many mink diseases can be introduced by the introduction of new animals. Isolation areas are critical to ensuring the health of the mink herd. The isolation period provides an opportunity to determine animal health by observing mink for clinical signs of illness, conducting tests, and administering treatments if warranted. Monitoring the herd from which the animals were acquired during this isolation period provides additional information on potential health risks to which the new mink may have been exposed. Upon completion of the isolation period, the newly purchased animals may enter the main herd when they meet the established herd health criteria.

Animal Health Management Key Points: Animal Introduction, Movements, and Removal

Buy Clean and Stay Clean

  1. Ensure new mink are healthy by sourcing from reputable suppliers that apply and document sound medical and biosecurity practices in their herds.
  2. Reduce the opportunity for disease introduction by limiting the frequency of mink introductions and movements.
  3. Maximize downtime on the site and between mink groups.
  4. Practise strict biosecurity when handling, catching, and moving mink.
  5. Ensure all sites have a sufficient number of pens to isolate new mink.
  6. Apply isolation procedures for all new mink arrivals, whether newly purchased or moved between producer-owned farms.

Monitoring and Maintaining Animal Health and Disease Response

Knowing the disease status of the herd is critical to recognizing whether an important disease condition is present on the farm and in initiating a prompt and effective response. Early diagnosis and disease surveillance help to contain the microbial pathogen in the event of an infectious or reportable animal disease (Reportable disease).

2.4 Animal Health Monitoring and Maintenance

2.4.1 Target Outcome

Individuals who monitor animal health are knowledgeable in mink health, in recognizing disease symptoms, and in response protocols.

Essential for effective disease monitoring and response protocols is having the knowledge and experience in identifying ill health in mink, including changes in appearance, behaviour, and activity. Staff members are not expected to diagnose the disease – this is the responsibility of the herd veterinarian and veterinary diagnostic laboratories. Staff, however, should know when something is wrong and what response protocols to follow.

2.4.2 Target Outcome

Daily procedures for animal health monitoring are followed and records of vaccination, illness, treatments, and mortalities are maintained.

Many factors may negatively affect animal health. These include, but are not limited to, infectious diseases, genetic diseases, management practices, and climatic conditions. To protect mink health and welfare, early detection of infectious disease is critical in preventing the spread of microbial pathogens. It allows for an appropriate response, reduces the extent and severity of a disease outbreak, and minimizes contamination of the premises.

Daily animal health monitoring provides the ability to promptly identify, investigate, and resolve health and management problems. Animal health records provide more accurate data than relying on memory and enhance the ability to identify disease trends, review previous health issues, and determine the success/failure of treatments and herd health programs.

2.4.3 Target Outcome

Animal health monitoring increases following the addition of new mink, illness in the herd, or industry disease alerts.

The frequency of animal health monitoring must be increased when there is a heightened risk of disease transmission.

2.4.4 Target Outcome

The detection of ill health in the herd results in an appropriate response.

Appropriate responses to evidence of disease may include animal isolation until the resolution of illness and infectivity, treatment, culling, euthanasia, or other interventions occur.

2.4.5 Target Outcome

Each farm establishes and implements a herd health program, in consultation with a veterinarian.

Determining the cause of disease facilitates control and treatment plans, increasing their effectiveness and reducing expenses.

Veterinarians receive extensive training in many disciplines, including, but not limited to, disease identification, the appropriate methods of sample collection, and submission to a veterinary diagnostic laboratory.

Vaccines are available to protect mink against some important diseases, though they do not provide complete protection to the herd. Some vaccines are capable of preventing clinical disease, whereas others reduce the severity or extent of a disease, but none provide full herd protection against a disease outbreak.

Vaccination of ill or compromised animals can reduce the efficacy of the response to vaccination.

Depending on the animal health status, vaccinated animals require at least three weeks to develop protective immunity. Vaccinating new mink just prior to their addition to the herd is ineffective. Mink farmers should carefully review their vaccination policies with their veterinarian to optimize protection for the herd.

2.4.6 Target Outcome

Escaped and released farmed mink and wild mink that are captured are not permitted entry into the farm site.

Mink that have either escaped or been released from the farm site can be directly exposed to microbial pathogens through contact with wild mink, mink from other farms and wildlife, and/or indirectly exposed through contact with a contaminated environment. These mink, if caught, should not be brought back onto the farm due to the risk of transmitting microbial pathogens to the remaining herd.

Wild mink that are inadvertently caught and returned to a mink farm pose a similar health risk. They should be dispatched according to applicable federal, provincial, and municipal government regulations.

When there is a substantial escape or release of mink from a farm, capture and re-entry to the herd may be considered. The herd health status will be compromised, and a plan will be needed to establish the health of the mink, returning the farm to a biosecure status.

2.5 Animal Health Response

2.5.1 Target Outcome

The recognition of unusual clinical signs, clinical signs consistent with serious infectious diseases, and/or high mortality rates trigger a response that includes farm lockdown and seeking a diagnosis.

To mitigate the risk of transmitting disease pathogens from a potentially infected premises to other mink farms in the area, immediately implement a farm lockdown. The elements of a farm lockdown include

  • preventing entry to the farm of all non-essential personnel;
  • notifying industry members, neighbours, organizations, and authorities about the issue;
  • instituting enhanced biosecurity measures for feed and other necessary input deliveries;
  • restricting the movement of people, animals, equipment, vehicles, and other materials off the farm; and
  • seeking a diagnosis.

Animal Health Management Key Points: Animal Health Monitoring and Response

  1. Know the clinical signs of poor health in mink and the appropriate disease response measures.
  2. Monitor animal health, and maintain records at least daily.
  3. Maintain a daily mortality log, and perform regular monitoring of all mink.
  4. Increase animal health monitoring during periods of increased disease risk.
  5. Obtain the advice of veterinarians on implementing a herd health program.
  6. Do not allow escaped mink to re-enter the farm premises.
  7. Implement enhanced biosecurity to prevent the spread of a disease when unusual clinical signs or high mortality is observed.
  8. Lockdown the premises by restricting deliveries, shipments, and the movements of animals, equipment, vehicles and people; and by notifying industry suppliers and neighbours.
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