National Farm and Facility Level Biosecurity User Guide for the Equine Sector
Section 3: Farm and facility specific biosecurity plan

Biosecurity: Keeping your horse(s) healthy and safe

3.1 Developing your farm or facility biosecurity plan

Developing a farm or facility biosecurity plan involves achieving the right balance between disease risk and prevention. While you and other horse owners and custodians may identify and implement similar biosecurity measures, each biosecurity plan is unique as it addresses the risks to your farm or facility.

It is helpful to have a basic understanding of the diseases that are most likely to pose a risk to your horse, (Refer to Annex 2) how these diseases are transmitted and methods of protecting your horse from disease. Work with your farm or facility veterinarian and industry experts on developing a plan.

Step 1: Prepare a diagram of the farm or facility

A farm or facility diagram is useful for visualizing and identifying opportunities for horses to come into contact with other animals, people and equipment that are potential sources of disease.

Create a diagram of the premises and identify:

  • property boundaries, fences and gates;
  • location of neighbouring properties with horses or livestock;
  • laneways, pathways, parking locations and traffic routes;
  • pasture, animal housing, arena and eventing areas;
  • storage locations for bedding, feed, manure and garbage;
  • water sources, watering and feeding locations; and
  • other areas on the site where people, horses and equipment may come into contact.

Review the diagram and create a list of the biosecurity concerns.

Step 2: Identify the risks - What diseases are concerns and how are they transmitted?

Diseases present in the local horse population and diseases that have previously occurred on the property are of primary importance. If you are travelling with your horse(s), consider disease risks from geographic areas you travel to. Talk to your neighbours that own horses, the clubs or associations you ride with, and your veterinarian to determine the status of local diseases.

Step 3: Review management practices and complete the self-assessment tool

Most horse care and management practices pose a risk for introducing and spreading disease. The biosecurity risks increase at a facility when there are additional people and horses with increased movement both on and off the farm or facility and around the property. Identify your daily care and management practices and any less frequent activities (for example, visits of non-resident horses to the property and resident horses returning after commingling with other horses) that might result in transmitting disease. Review your farm or facility diagram to help with this step.

Complete the biosecurity self-assessment tool using the information and biosecurity concerns identified in Steps 1 and 2 and the management practices identified above. (Refer to Annex 3 self-assessment tool). It is organized based on the seven components of a biosecurity plan.

When completed, review the self-assessment and identify areas where biosecurity practices are being effectively managed and those where improvements can be made.

Step 4: Identify biosecurity goals and best practices

From the review of the self-assessment tool and farm or facility diagram, identify the biosecurity challenges and risks. Using the biosecurity standard and user guide, identify biosecurity goals and best practices that can be implemented to address the biosecurity gaps. Discuss the strategies with your veterinarian and other sources of biosecurity expertise (provincial government livestock and extension specialists, industry associations, and universities) as necessary.

Step 5: Develop an implementation strategy

While all biosecurity risks need to be addressed, some will be more critical than others. Prioritize the biosecurity tasks and establish a timeline for their completion.

Establish short term goals and activities. These:

  • can be planned and implemented within 12 months;
  • are aligned to the current objectives and goals of your farm or facility; and
  • often require minimal investment of time and capital.

Establish long-term activities. These can:

  • be planned and implemented over more than one year;
  • require changes in the physical infrastructure or layout of the farm or facility;
  • require additional financial or personnel resources that are not currently available; and
  • expand the overall goals and objectives of your management plan beyond their current scope.

Step 6: Review the effectiveness of the biosecurity plan and seek continuous improvement

The effectiveness of the biosecurity plan is measured by the adoption of its biosecurity practices, their integration into daily routines and the impact to the health status of horses on the property. When necessary, design and implement improvements to the biosecurity plan.

  • assess the applicability and effectiveness of the biosecurity practices by reviewing key health performance indicators contained in the herd health records (see section 5.0) during and following implementation of the biosecurity plan and as changes to the plan are made;
  • consult with your veterinarian and other advisors on biosecurity and adjust your plan as necessary;
  • meet with family, staff, boarders and anyone with unrestricted access to the farm or facility at least twice yearly and following the implementation of a new practice to discuss the feasibility and effectiveness of each of the practices in your biosecurity plan; and
  • review education and training sessions to identify areas for improvement.

3.2 Cover your bases - Biosecurity: A cycle of activities

The implementation of biosecurity principles on a farm or facility can be viewed as a cycle of activities which includes:

  • Assessing the biosecurity risks;
  • Developing a plan that addresses the risks;
  • Implementing biosecurity measures and procedures;
  • Monitoring horse health, keeping records of sicknesses and treatments, and gathering disease and pest information to evaluate the plan and identify new risks; and
  • Reassessing the risks and responses on an on-going basis to ensure continuous improvement.

Figure 4: Cycle of biosecurity activities

Figure 4 is an illustration of the cycle of activities that should be completed to develop and implement a biosecurity plan. Description follows.
Description for flowchart – Figure 4: Cycle of biosecurity activities

Figure 4 is an illustration of the cycle of activities that should be completed to develop and implement a biosecurity plan. The cycle of biosecurity activities has four items in the centre with arrows pointing between them in clockwise direction. The first item at the top of the cycle is Assess. Moving clockwise, the second item is Plan, the third item is Implement and the fourth item is Monitor. There is a text box by each of these items in the cycle (four in total). Above the word Assess there is a box with the following text: Identify and evaluate on an on-going basis the risks posed by diseases and pests that are a threat to your farm or facility. To the right of the word Plan there is a box with the following text inside: Develop a written biosecurity plan to address the risks - this allows for the regular review and update, facilitates continuous improvement within the farm or facility and forms the basis for training. Below he word Implement is a text box with the following text inside: Implement the biosecurity measures that were identified in the plan to address the disease and pest risks. To the left of the word Monitor is a text box with the following text: Develop and implement a surveillance program for ongoing monitoring of disease to evaluate the plan and the early detection and identification of disease.

Assess: The risks posed by the introduction of pests and diseases that threaten horse health on your farm or facility are identified and evaluated in consideration of the seven components of a biosecurity plan. The identification and evaluation of risks will allow for current biosecurity issues within a farm or facility to be addressed.

Plan and Implement: A written on-farm or facility biosecurity plan is highly recommended, regardless of the size or type of facility. A written plan allows for regular review and update, facilitates continuous improvement within the operation, and forms the base for training.

Monitor and reassess: It is important that the design, effectiveness and implementation of a biosecurity plan be assessed not only on a routine basis, but also when changes in farm practices or biosecurity issues occur. Production practices should be reviewed frequently to ensure that implemented measures are effective in relation to pest and disease prevention and control.

Additional resources on developing a biosecurity plan

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