National Farm-Level Biosecurity Planning Guide Proactive Management of Animal Resources
A) Background

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"Animal biosecurity" is a general description for a set of measures designed to protect Canada's animal resources from foreign and established infectious and parasitic disease agents at the national, regional, and farm levels.

Why Is Animal Biosecurity Important?

Maintenance of the highest possible animal health status is vital to the sustainability and profitability of the Canadian agricultural sector. Access to premium markets will increasingly depend on our ability to demonstrate freedom from serious animal diseases and pests. Biosecurity standards will play an increasing role in meeting processor requirements, in quality assurance programs, and in retaining market access and competitiveness. There is a growing trend to ensure health certification as an indicator of quality assurance and biosecurity in purchasing and moving live animals. Consumers today are more educated and engaged in welfare and biosecurity issues in the production of animals, demanding the highest quality of production practices in the agricultural community.

Foreign animal diseases (FADs) and production level diseases – commonly found in parts of Canada – can spread from farm to farm and result in animal sickness, death, and economic loss. The best defence against disease is to implement sound biosecurity practices at the farm level.

An effective biosecurity plan can help to accomplish the following:

  • improve or maintain animal health, welfare and productivity;
  • reduce the risk of the introduction and spread of endemic and foreign diseases;
  • minimize the potential for costs and revenue losses;
  • protect human health;
  • protect the ability to move animals;
  • protect service industries (e.g. feed suppliers);
  • protect export markets; and
  • assist in domestic marketing.

What Is Farm-Level Animal Biosecurity?

The focus of this guide is farm-level biosecurity, although it is recognized that biosecurity interventions are necessary along the continuum of production systems at all levels regional, national, and international.

Farm-level biosecurity is a series of management practices designed to reduce the introduction of disease and pests onto a farm (bioexclusion) and to minimize their spread within a farm and beyond (biocontainment). Disease and pests can reduce productivity, affect farm incomes and animal welfare, increase veterinary and labour costs, reduce the value of farmland, close export markets, affect domestic consumption, and reduce prices that producers receive for their animals and products. In addition to adverse effects on the agricultural economy, there can be negative effects on the environment and human health.

Who Is Responsible for Farm-Level Animal Biosecurity?

All owners and managers have the ultimate responsibility to protect the health of animals under their care, and should consider developing a written farm-level biosecurity plan for their operation. This can be accomplished by working in close cooperation with private veterinarians, extension specialists, and provincial and federal veterinarians available in each region. Quick and simple measures built into your everyday management practices will go a long way toward protecting your farm and your future from the costly consequences of disease.

Biosecurity may be considered as a whole-farm approach to animal health management. The cooperation of visitors and agri-service personnel is an important part of a plan, but, ultimately, the owner or manager must be willing to do what is necessary to ensure that established protocols are followed by family members, employees, and visitors.

Why Are Farm-Level Biosecurity Planning and Implementation Important?

In the past, producers and the agricultural community have relied heavily on the use of vaccinations and antimicrobials for managing animal health and production. It is globally accepted that, with the evolution of antimicrobial resistance, emerging and re-merging disease, and resistant strains of disease and pests, this approach is no longer effective. Modern farming demands a more holistic approach. Holistic prevention that incorporates biosecurity, medication, and vaccination is the most cost-effective protection against animal disease.

Putting biosecurity practices in place to keep animals healthy has been a long-standing and successful practice on many Canadian farms. There is, however, a move toward applying biosecurity practices in a more systematic fashion, across numerous commodities, and from the farm level to the national level.

The complexity of intensively managed farm operations (high populations, staggered production cycles, rearing environments, and other demands and logistics) increases the risk potential of introduction and spread of disease. These premises may require stricter biosecurity protocols. Many specialized farm operations, such as integrated poultry and hog farms, have well-developed biosecurity plans to protect the health status of the flock or herd. However, extensive management systems, involving the use of pasture, rangeland, and even the community, can benefit from applying the elements of biosecurity described here.

Securing your farm is all about knowing the risks to your enterprise, understanding the ways in which your animals can be exposed to disease, and taking steps to minimize these risks. The steps necessary to put sound biosecurity practices into place often do not require major capital investment, only management and planning changes.

Disease and Animal Production

Disease may result from a number of factors, including, but not limited to, infectious organisms; toxins; trauma or damage to a tissue or organ; and metabolic, nutritional, and degenerative conditions. However, a primary cause is infection from pathogens, namely viruses, bacteria, fungi, and parasites. The source or vector for an infectious organism often includes the following:

  • live animals (especially sick or recently recovered);
  • dead or sick animals;
  • animal products;
  • family and staff, and visitors;
  • clothing;
  • equipment;
  • vehicles and transportation;
  • feed and water;
  • feces and urine;
  • birds, wildlife, and other animals;
  • pests; and
  • air (aerosols or particulates).

The ability of an animal industry sector to withstand an outbreak will be influenced by not only the collective efforts of the sector, but also by individual biosecurity plans and their effective implementation.

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