Biosecurity for Canadian Dairy Farms - Producer Planning Guide
Index 4. Control Area 4: Personnel, visitors, vehicles and equipment

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Controlling traffic and visitors is an essential part of biosecurity, but it is commonly overlooked. Pathogens can be introduced and spread by contaminated footwear, clothing, and hands, as well as on vehicles, farm machinery and other equipment.

The risks of people, vehicles and equipment transmitting pathogens to cattle can be managed if those involved understand the risks and engage in the appropriate mitigation activities. Guiding the movement of visitors onto and within your operation will also minimize these risks.

Strategy 1: Control access

Different categories of service providers and visitors pose different levels of risk. All service providers and visitors should be made aware of the farm's level of biosecurity and follow their biosecurity protocols. The key activities are aimed at controlling who comes on to the farm and then taking steps to manage their visit based on the level of risk.

Best Practice 1: Limit nonessential traffic on the farm.

  • Establish perimeter control with fencing and gates to reduce the number of entry points.
  • Secure entry (e.g. have the ability to lock) to high risks areas such as:
    • milk house
    • barn
    • feed storage
    • chemical storage
  • Plan ahead for all visits. Inform all visitors of biosecurity requirements, including where to park, and who to contact upon arrival.
  • Designate a specific parking area for visitors and employees that is away from the cattle and not shared with farm vehicles.
  • Have a single, clearly marked entrance for all visitors.
  • Restrict access to all high-risk areas, including cattle housing facilities, to essential personnel only.
  • Post signage that is clearly visible at all access points and provides clear instructions, including information on who to contact upon arrival, where to report and what biosecurity measures need to be followed.

Best Practice 2: Conduct a risk assessment of all visitors.

  • Conduct a risk assessment of all visitors before you allow them into your operation.
  • Consider asking visitors the following questions to assist you with your risk assessment:
    • When did you last have contact with livestock? With what species?
    • Have you recently travelled to another province or country?
      • Where did you travel?
      • Did you have contact with livestock?
      • When did you return?
  • Based on this risk assessment, assign low, medium or high risk to each visitor (see glossary).
  • In general, if you anticipate foreign visitors, require that they have been in Canada for at least five days and have had no animal contact.
  • Prevent entry into your operation if you feel risk cannot sufficiently be reduced by implementing additional biosecurity measures, such as changing footwear and clothing, washing hands etc.
  • Designate one area where visitors enter and congregate outside of the production area.
  • Determine the required biosecurity measures for all visitors. It is recommended to:
    • only permit access to the cattle housing area and other high-risks areas if required.
    • instruct visitors not to touch the animals unless this is part of their job.
    • ensure that they employ a work order based on clean to dirty, young to old, healthy to sick.
  • Have bull calves and other sale animals picked up without the dealer or transporter entering the production area.

Best Practice 3: Keep a record of all visitors and deliveries.

  • Ensure you know who is on your farm at all times.
  • Keep a visitor log recording:
    • date of the visit
    • names and addresses of the visitors
    • any animal contact they had in the 48 hours preceding their visit to your farm
  • Store the log in an area that is easily accessible to all visitors and does not require entry into the production area, for example in the farm office.

Strategy 2: Use clean clothing and footwear

Footwear and soiled clothing need special attention, as these can serve as important mechanical vectors for pathogens.

Best Practice 1: Require that all visitors and service personnel put on clean clothing and footwear when entering the production area.

  • Have a pre-established arrangement for the supply of suitable clean clothing and footwear. Options include:
    • visitors and service providers bring their own attire.
    • farm-specific clothing and footwear are provided by the farm.
    • disposable coveralls and plastics boots are available.
  • If visitors or service providers are bringing their own footwear, require that they brush wash them to remove contamination and disinfect upon arrival. Visually inspect all personal clothing for gross contamination.
  • Require that all visitors and service providers put on clean coveralls and footwear prior to entering the production area, especially if there will be any planned contact with animals, feed or manure.
  • Ensure all visitors and service providers clean their footwear when moving between different animal housing areas.
  • Provide disposable sleeves and gloves if there is contact with cattle.
  • Collect all farm-dedicated or disposable clothing and footwear after each visit and dispose of them appropriately.
  • If clothing and footwear is taken off of the farm, require that footwear is brush washed and disinfected before leaving and that clothing is removed.

Best Practice 2: Ensure that all farm workers use farm-dedicated clothing and footwear.

  • Require all farm workers to report to work in clean clothing and footwear that have not been exposed to livestock.
  • Determine your farm's protocol for farm clothing and footwear for farm workers:
    • Will you provide clean farm-specific clothing and footwear for all workers? or
    • Do workers have to provide their own clean coveralls and footwear?
  • Require all coveralls to be cleaned, at a minimum, on a daily basis with detergent and bleach or washing soda.
  • Routinely clean and disinfect footwear, especially:
    • before entering or leaving the farm
    • before entering or leaving the production area
    • when moving between high risk areas such as the isolation area, hospital pen, calving area, and deadstock disposal
    • after all times of gross contamination
  • Change clothing between high risk areas such as the isolation area, hospital pen, calving area, and deadstock disposal.
  • Provide appropriate personal protective equipment (gloves, fitted N95 masks) to all employees for use during high risk activities, including but not limited to calving, caring for sick animals, and handling manure or deadstock.
  • Require all clothing and footwear worn in the production area to be changed or cleaned prior to entering the house or office area.
  • If your enterprise has multiple premises, have dedicated footwear and clothing specific to each location.
  • If family members or employees visit other livestock facilities, ensure all clothing worn on your premises, including caps and jackets, are changed before going to another farm.
  • Consider carrying disposable footwear and coveralls with you for use when visiting other livestock facilities. Dispose of them prior to leaving.

Best Practice 3: Provide the necessary facilities for farm workers, visitors and service providers to change into clean clothing and footwear and wash hands.

  • Have a transition area or ante-room at the entrance to the production facility, in which farm workers, service providers and visitors can put on and remove clothing and footwear and wash or sanitize their hands.
  • Provide a storage area(s) for dedicated clothing and footwear, including coat hooks and boot trays. Consider keeping a contingency supply of extra footwear and pairs of clean coveralls or disposable coveralls and boot covers in a variety of sizes.
  • Post appropriate signage directing visitors and service providers to a designated area to prepare for the farm visit.
  • Have instructional material available on proper biosecurity practices.
  • Maintain accessible, functioning hand washing stations at the entry to and between different production areas.
  • Require that hands are washed with soap and water upon entering your production area, when moving between production areas and before leaving the production area. If there is no access to water, hand sanitizer can be used as long as hands are not visibly contaminated.
  • Place hand sanitizers (60% alcohol) throughout the facility to encourage regular use.
  • Provide and properly maintain footwear washing facilities, solutions and brushes at the entry to and between different production areas.

Strategy 3: Control movement of vehicles and equipment

Traffic control includes the movement of vehicles and equipment onto your operation as well as all movement within and off of your operation. Vehicles and equipment have the potential to introduce pathogens onto your farm, as well as move them within or off of your farm if they have been in contact with livestock and their products. You can make an assessment of the relative risk of each vehicle or piece of equipment based on its use, location of work, and movement patterns. Practices can then be established to appropriately address this risk on the farm.

Best Practice 1: Control vehicle and equipment access to the farm.

  • Have one vehicle access point so you always know who is present on your farm.
  • Minimize the number of vehicles you allow on your premises.
  • Designate a parking area for vehicles entering the farm that is away from livestock, feed delivery areas and manure handling routes.
  • Maintain a vehicle and equipment arrival log.
  • Use farm-specific equipment and instruments whenever possible.
  • If visitors' vehicles need access to the premises, ensure that they are free of visible manure and organic material and then cleaned and disinfected before entry. Ideally:if there is previous contact with cattle and cattle products, this is done prior to arrival the inside of the truck bed, bottom of the vehicle and tires should be cleaned.
    • If equipment is brought onto the farm, ensure that it is cleaned and disinfected before entry and use.
    • Provide appropriate facilities for washing and disinfecting vehicles and equipment at all entry points.
    • Clean and disinfect your own vehicles and equipment after visiting other livestock premises, sale yards or other places of unknown animal health status.

Best Practice 2: Control traffic patterns on the farm.

  • Establish routes on your dairy farm specific to each visitor or service provider.
  • Post signage directing specific vehicles to the desired location(s), especially at the entrance to all high risk areas.
  • Provide clean routes free of contamination (manure, other debris) for essential vehicles. If possible, these routes should be separate from those travelled by dairy farm equipment and any laneways used for cattle movement.
  • Whenever possible, only allow your farm's vehicles in the livestock handling and housing areas or around feed storage bins.
  • Where the movement of vehicles and equipment is necessary outside of the specified area, and into higher risk areas such as livestock handling areas or feed storage, ensure that proper cleaning and disinfection is completed prior to entry.
  • Require all equipment and instruments that have had direct animal contact be cleaned and disinfected before and after use, as well as between different cattle housing areas.
  • Provide appropriate facilities for washing and disinfecting vehicles and equipment at the entry to all high risk areas.
  • Limit recreational vehicle use on the premises.

Strategy 4: Plan, train and communicate

Everyone on the farm has an important role in implementing biosecurity. Each person should know and understand the importance of biosecurity and be able to implement the biosecurity practices in the area(s) of the dairy operation for which they are responsible. Additionally, those who are involved directly with the herd should be able to identify and respond to potential disease risk situations. Training and education, either formal or informal, as well as regular communication are essential for all personnel who live and work on the farm.

Best Practice 1: Involve your entire farm team in the design of the biosecurity plan.

  • Involve your employees and family members when you are building your biosecurity plan.
  • Provide them with the opportunity to comment on the practicality of the plan.
  • Ensure that each production facility has a written copy of the biosecurity plan available to all employees, family members and visitors.
  • Maintain records of key biosecurity activities.
  • Have regular team assessments so everyone can comment on the positive and negative aspects of the biosecurity plan.
  • Consider making adjustments to the biosecurity plan based on team feedback.
  • Designate a family member(s) or employee(s) as a biosecurity officer for your farm. The responsibilities of the biosecurity officer include:
    • biosecurity training and education
    • records keeping
    • compliance assessment
    • review and revision of the plan

Best Practice 2: Train and educate your personnel.

  • Identify the roles and responsibilities of each employee and family member present on the farm.
  • Provide training to employees and family members on both the theoretical and practical aspects of biosecurity. Consider testing to gauge understanding and determine future training needs.
  • Promote the importance of biosecurity to your employees and family members and their role in ensuring proper, consistent uptake of the biosecurity plan.
  • Consider incorporating the following topics (not a comprehensive list) into your biosecurity training and education program:
    • the rationale of farm-specific clothing and footwear and the practices for putting them on, removing them and cleaning them
    • proper cleaning and disinfecting, including the safe and effective use of all materials
    • proper hand washing and sanitizing procedures
    • personal protective equipment, including when and how it should be used and any other relevant occupational health and safety standards
    • recognition of sick animals
    • basic use of livestock drugs, feed additives and farm chemicals (to prevent product misuse)
    • response activities in the event of a disease emergency
    • record keeping
  • Maintain records on all training and educational activities.
  • Repeat the training sessions regularly, especially if changes are made in the plan.

Best Practice 3: Communicate your plan.

  • Inform every person working on or visiting your dairy farm that you have a biosecurity program and that everyone is expected to follow it.
  • Share your written biosecurity plan with neighbours, visitors, the service sector, inspectors and industry associations.
  • Establish effective communication channels between you and your management, employees, and family members. Possible avenues include regular staff meetings, bulletin board(s), weekly newsletters, posters, and social media.
  • Prepare an external communication plan that provides information on your biosecurity plan to service providers and visitors.
  • Devise a communication plan in the event of a disease outbreak.

Best Practice 4: Regularly review your biosecurity plan and update at least annually.

  • Regularly review your biosecurity records with your herd veterinarian and assess them in conjunction with records for animal health and farm management activities. Use the information to help evaluate the effectiveness and efficiency of your program and then determine if corrective action(s) is needed.
  • Routinely revisit your risk assessment to address any new areas of concern, including a change to the specific diseases of concern for your farm.
  • Review and update your plan, if necessary, at least annually and more frequently if you have made changes to:
    • operational practices (e.g. new supplier of purchased cattle, new transportation practices, new practice of moving heifers to be raised at an off-site location)
    • facilities and farm layout
  • Assess the compatibility of your biosecurity program with any new program(s) introduced in the dairy industry and integrate practices whenever possible.
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