Biosecurity for Canadian Dairy Farms - Producer Planning Guide
Index 1. Control Area 1: Animal health management

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Strategy 1: Maintain a client-veterinarian relationship

Section 3.4 of the Dairy Farmers of Canada Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Dairy Cattle requires producers to establish a working relationship with a practicing veterinarian. To align with this code, the National Standard and Planning Guide recommend a broadly-based relationship with your veterinarian that will reflect the specific needs of your herd.

Best Practice 1: Develop a relationship with a veterinary practice.

  • Establish a working relationship with your herd veterinarian through regular on-farm and off-farm consultations.
  • Routinely discuss issues related to herd management, including herd health assessment and monitoring, and biosecurity planning.
  • Engage the expertise of a veterinarian for disease diagnosis, treatment plans and any other emergency veterinary services.
  • Report any suspicious disease symptoms to your veterinarian and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) if there is concern of a Reportable and/or Foreign Animal Disease (FAD).

Best Practice 2: Implement an animal health management plan in consultation with your herd veterinarian.

  • Design an Animal Health Management Plan with your veterinarian.

The following considerations outline some important areas to consider in the preparation of your Animal Health Management Plan. The specific details for each area will be unique to your farm.

An Animal Health Management Plan may consider:

  • routine health assessment of cattle
  • individual animal health and production records
  • animal additions and re-entries
  • animal movement patterns on the farm
  • animal housing layout
  • animal nutrition
  • calving management
  • colostrum management
  • fresh cow management
  • mastitis prevention and treatment strategy
  • vaccination strategy for various age groups
  • proper storage for vaccines and drugs
  • the need for specific considerations for organic status
  • common diseases and disease frequency on the farm
  • risk tolerance of the operation for disease outbreaks
  • disease monitoring/testing strategies
  • evaluation of disease records to monitor new disease entry onto the farm
  • isolation of sick animals
  • treatment protocols for common diseases on the farm
  • evaluation of effectiveness of treatment protocols
  • meat and milk withholding times
  • strategy to deal with a serious outbreak of disease on the farm
  • culling strategy
  • euthanasia protocol and guidelines for decision-making
  • regular (annual) review of the plan
  • staff training

Review this plan at least annually with your veterinarian and make adjustments as required depending on the changing needs of your farm.

Strategy 2: Observe, record and evaluate

Individual records are kept for all cattle, especially with respect to production. This strategy recommends that you collect health and disease information for all your cattle and have all of the individual animals' records accessible in an integrated manner. This is of benefit, as it not only provides a central source of information for regular monitoring, but also assists with disease analysis, traceability and on-farm management changes.

Best Practice 1: Monitor animal health daily and maintain individual animal health and production records.

  • Observe all animals at least once daily. This may be completed during milking for lactating cows. Attention should be paid to:
    • attitude and behaviour
    • rumen fill
    • gait
    • body condition
    • temperature
    • interaction with other animals
  • Ensure all staff involved in daily monitoring know what to assess each animal for, the steps to take when there is suspicion that an animal may be exhibiting signs of disease and the overall importance of early detection of infectious disease.
  • Collect production information for each animal, such as milk production, reproductive history (number of times bred and success, calving) and feed consumption.
  • Collect health information for each animal that includes:
    • notable observations from routine monitoring
    • health concerns
    • vaccinations, deworming and any other disease prevention measures
    • disease testing and diagnosis
    • treatments applied and response
  • Integrate the production data with the animal health information for each animal's records.
  • Compile all of the records for the herd into one central source that is easily accessible to you, your staff and any service provider (e.g. herd veterinarian, nutritionist).

Best Practice 2: Keep detailed records of all sick animals.

  • Document the following information for each disease occurrence:
    • clinical signs
    • observations from ongoing monitoring
    • test(s) completed including laboratory reports and analysis
    • diagnosis
    • treatment methodology
    • outcomes (e.g. success, failure, repeat treatments) of the intervention
  • Incorporate the above records with each individual animal's health records.

Best Practice 3: Review these records regularly with the herd veterinarian to evaluate disease trends and the effectiveness of treatments.

  • Review records regularly to establish a complete picture of the herd's performance.
  • Consult with your herd veterinarian if you have questions regarding observations or record analysis results in order to determine which direction you should take to address a specific health or production issue (e.g. treatment, vaccination, culling).
  • Use these records when reviewing and reassessing management strategies, including your animal health management plan and biosecurity plan.

Strategy 3: Recognize susceptibility and maintain separation

Your cattle are more susceptible to disease at certain stages of their life and in certain production conditions. Feed requirements, housing, and vaccination practices also differ in these stages. Separating cattle in these groups reduces the possibility of disease transmission from a lesser to a more susceptible group and allows management efforts to be targeted to the needs of that group.

Best Practice 1: Separate cattle based on age and stage of production.

  • Establish groups of cattle on your farm based on age and production. Suggested groups include milking cows, heifers, and pre- and post-weaned calves.
  • Using the farm diagram in section 2, identify where each group is housed.
  • Limit contact between each group by ensuring that there is sufficient space between the groups and that the pathways used within the housing area do not provide opportunity for direct or indirect contact.
  • If feasible, raise heifers off-site from the rest of the herd and treat these animals as new arrivals when returning to the herd.
  • Use separate vehicles for mature cattle and younger cattle to avoid commingling groups of different susceptibility.

Best Practice 2: Separate the maternity area from the hospital area.

  • Establish separate areas for:
    • cattle under treatment
    • suspected diseased cattle (e.g. those exhibiting clinical signs)
    • maternity pens
    • calf-rearing
  • Using the farm diagram in section 2, identify each housing area.
  • Limit direct and indirect contact both between these groups of animals and with the remainder of the herd.
  • Have dedicated feed, water, bedding and equipment for each area.

Best Practice 3: Segregate pre-weaned calves and have dedicated feed, treatment and cleaning equipment.

  • Have a separate area for pre-weaned calves that prevents contact with other groups of animals on the farm.
  • Use dedicated feed, water, bedding and equipment for this area.

Strategy 4: Regularly monitor and investigate sickness/death

Early detection of disease is important because it allows the appropriate intervention measures to be undertaken in a timely manner. Isolation of suspected cases, appropriate diagnostic testing, and targeted treatment measures should follow and have a higher likelihood of success if initiated in a quick, and organized fashion.

Best Practice 1: Isolate sick cattle from the remainder of the herd in a hospital pen and seek veterinary advice.

  • Routinely check cattle for signs of sickness to detect diseases early.
  • Attend to sick cattle quickly and house in the isolation area away from the remainder of your herd to prevent the spread of disease.
  • Create an isolation area, over and above the hospital area, for cattle that are showing signs of a disease or that are known to have been exposed to a disease.
  • Restrict access to your isolation area(s) to assigned personnel and their essential equipment. This is one of your most potentially infectious areas.
  • Post signs explaining the purpose of the isolation area and directing all but assigned personnel to stay away. Reinforce signage with verbal communication to all staff.
  • Build the isolation area with materials that are easily cleaned and disinfected. Smooth, impermeable material with limited seams and other openings are less likely to harbour pathogens and can be cleaned more effectively.
  • Provide feeders, waterers and grooming equipment in the isolation area(s) that are not shared with other cattle.
  • Allow for degrees of isolation that address the method of disease transmission for which you are concerned. For example:
    • for respiratory diseases, isolated cattle should not share the same airspace with resident cattle.
    • for BVD, isolated cattle should not be able to touch resident cattle.
  • Contact your herd veterinarian for assistance with sick animals, including cases of unusual sickness.
  • Observe cattle in the isolation area frequently (at least twice daily is recommended).
  • Assign responsibilities for the care of the isolated cattle.
  • Regularly remove all manure, straw and other materials that could have been contaminated by an infected animal. Fully clean the facility, including the water bowls and feed troughs after each use.

Best Practice 2: Perform diagnostic tests (milk culture, serology) as required on sick animals.

  • Work with your herd veterinarian to determine the most appropriate diagnostic tests.
  • Submit samples to an accredited veterinary laboratory for analysis.

Best Practice 3: Develop a protocol to screen for diseases of interest (BVD, Johne's).

  • Based on your diseases of concern, establish a protocol for routine testing of your herd.
  • Discuss testing with your herd veterinarian to determine the most appropriate tests given your herd demographics.
  • Establish a response plan for abnormal test results. This could include:
    • isolation of affected animals
    • follow-up testing
    • prophylactic treatment of unaffected cattle (e.g. vaccination, deworming)
  • Ensure that all testing is completed at an accredited veterinary laboratory.

Best Practice 4: Maintain treatment protocols as required by the Canadian Quality Milk (CQM) program.

  • Use the CQM templates as a guide for establishing treatment records.
  • Work with your herd veterinarian to write treatment standard operating procedures (SOPs) for each condition to be treated.
  • Establish criteria for when to contact your herd veterinarian for additional diagnostics or for changes to treatment SOPs.
  • Use the "lessons learned" from each disease occurrence to make the appropriate changes to the current treatment regimes.

Best Practice 5: Develop a response strategy in case of a serious disease outbreak.

  • Determine the disease situations that could require additional interventions. Examples include:
    • any occurrence of a federally reportable disease or FAD
    • an outbreak of any highly infectious endemic disease
    • a sudden occurrence of high morbidity or mortality of undetermined cause
  • Establish data points for monitoring. When these points are noted, they may initiate further response activities for mitigating potential disease transmission risk. Examples include:
    • significant drop in milk production
    • decreased feed consumption
    • observation of specific clinical signs (e.g. blisters around the mouth)
  • Have a written emergency response plan that outlines the sequence of response activities that should be undertaken. This plan should include enhanced biosecurity measures.
  • Report any suspicious disease symptoms to your veterinarian and CFIA if there is concern of a federally reportable disease and/or FAD.

Strategy 5: Manage feed, water and bedding

Farm inputs such as feed, water and bedding have the potential for the introduction and spread of pathogens. The key activities monitor these farm inputs to ensure that they do not contain or become contaminated with pathogens, chemicals or animal materials. Where farm inputs are purchased, and how they are handled, managed and stored, may have an impact on animal and human health.

Best Practice 1: Ensure traceability of all feedstuffs coming onto the farm.

  • Purchase feed from reputable suppliers who maintain a Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP) Program with a biosecurity component.
  • Keep a log of all feed and feed ingredients received on the farm.
  • If feed is produced on the farm, be able to identify all treatments applied to your crops (e.g. pesticides, fungicides).

Best Practice 2: Control storage conditions and management of feed.

  • Minimize feed contamination on the farm by using proper storage facilities that prevent access of birds, dogs, cats, cattle and other wildlife.
  • Label all chemicals, pesticides and medications appropriately and keep in a separate area from feed.
  • Establish storage facilities for feeds for various classes of dairy cattle to avoid errors in feeding practices. Store medicated feeds separately from non-medicated feeds.
  • Clean all storage areas (silos, bins and commodity sheds) between batches of feed.
  • On a daily basis, clean feed bunks/mangers of feeds not consumed and other sources of contamination and pick up any spilled feed.
  • Clean and disinfect equipment used for feed handling prior to use if it has previously been used for non-feed purposes (e.g. manure handling).
  • Ensure all feed mixing and delivery equipment is cleaned out between uses.

Best Practice 3: Ensure and maintain feed quality and safety.

  • Have a feeding plan for each production class (calves, heifers, dry cows, pregnant cows and milk cows).
  • Routinely test all feeds for nutrient content as recommended to provide consistent and adequate cattle nutrition. Rebalance rations as necessary.
  • Keep a record of feed testing results.
  • Ensure dairy feeds are in compliance with Federal regulations regarding the prevention of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), which prohibit the feeding of animal materials to ruminants.
  • Rotate inventory to limit feed spoilage among stored feeds.
  • Avoid storing feed refusals for more than 24 hours prior to feeding to prevent spoilage.
  • Only provide feed refusals to those of lowest disease susceptibility.
  • Where feasible or when high risk types of feeds are used, keep a frozen sample of all feed batches for at least 6 to 9  months in case there is a need to analyze the batch for possible contamination related to a suspected problem in the herd.
  • Examine feedstuffs closely for contamination and spoilage before feeding. Reject feeds with visible mould, contamination, spoilage, unexplained discoloration or unusual odour.

Best Practice 4: Ensure that a sufficient supply of clean and potable water is freely available and regularly checked and maintained.

  • Preferably use municipal or borehole/deep well water sources.
  • If using surface water (ponds, streams), ensure water is treated effectively to destroy any pathogens.
  • Maintain treatment units and routinely check for effectiveness.
  • Protect water supply areas (well area, ponds and streams) from fecal and chemical contamination.
  • Restrict dairy cattle from drinking from ponds, bogs and streams, which can easily become contaminated with manure and other run-off contaminants.
  • Test water annually or more frequently if there is a problem, using a provincial or reputable private laboratory.
  • Record water test results or any problems with water quality.
  • Ensure there is sufficient access to water so that all cattle have a continuous supply of clean, fresh, uncontaminated water.
  • Position waterers for easy and safe access for cattle.
  • Design and install waterers to reduce the risk of contamination and allow for easy cleaning.
  • Have procedures in place for regular (daily or weekly) cleaning of waterers (tanks, troughs, bowls and buckets).
  • Disinfect waterers at least twice per year using an approved product.
  • Provide adequate drainage in cattle-holding areas to minimize the pooling of water, manure and urine.

Best Practice 5: Choose appropriate bedding material for your enterprise to control mastitis and promote cow comfort.

  • Provide adequate bedding to keep all cattle clean, dry and comfortable. Replace regularly.
  • Source bedding from a reputable supplier who provides a consistently clean, dry product free from contamination.
  • Examine bedding at source or before use for freedom from mould, other contamination or extraneous material.
  • Store bedding in a dry area protected from access by dogs, cats, cattle, vermin, wildlife and pests.
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