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Prevent a Biosecurity Breach -- Visit the New BCRC Biosecurity Page for Beef Producers

Biosecurity hazards on beef operations are sometimes overlooked, however, the risk of introducing disease onto your farm is real and more common than you may think.

Routine practices such as shared fence lines, buying in replacement breeding heifers or bulls, borrowing stock trailers or outsourcing farm work can bring unwanted diseases onto your farm. Even producers who consider their herds to be “closed” may be surprised to learn there is no such thing as a truly closed herd if operations host farm visitors or there are wildlife-livestock interactions. 

Producers have a lot to gain by managing biosecurity risks to help reduce disease, minimize production losses, decrease the cost of treatment, and reduce death loss, all factors that are critical to profitability and animal welfare. Proper biosecurity can also minimize antibiotic overuse and ensure public trust through food safety. 

Think you have a closed herd?

Click the image for an interactive graphic illustrating some of the ways a beef cattle herd becomes open to disease.

Think you have a closed herd? Biosecurity risks on livestock operations

Biosecurity in Action on Canadian Farms

Fortunately, many commonsense practices already being implemented on farms across Canada align with biosecurity as part of everyday risk management. Establishing and maintaining a veterinary-client-patient relationship (VCPR) with a veterinarian is a key component of biosecurity. 

Incorporating on-farm biosecurity principles that mitigate the impact of common health risks like bovine viral diarrhea (BVD) and calf scours, also work against serious foreign animal disease outbreaks such as foot and mouth disease. 

Some pathogens that affect cattle are zoonotic, meaning they can cause disease in both humans and animals. This is why proper personal protective equipment is important when working with animals and why a team-based approach such as a One Health Strategy can be effective. 

A Veterinarian-Client-Patient-Relationship (VCPR) is a relationship that develops between a veterinarian and a producer — the veterinarian knows the operator, visits the farm or ranch to understand the operation, sees how animals are cared for and is confident the producer will responsibly follow medical advice and properly use products as directed. 

Biosecurity Plan for Beef Cattle Operations

1. Identify your biosecurity risks 

aerial view of Haraga Ranch, which utilized the One Health Strategy during a beef cattle disease outbreak
WATCH: Alberta beef producers Tyler and Nancy Haraga share details of a Cryptosporidium outbreak and how they recovered using team-based One Health Strategies.

In a recent webinar, “Biosecurity During Calving,” Blake Balog, DVM, highlights that biosecurity is as easy as just a few simple things done right every day. A starting point for producers wanting to gain perspective on biosecurity risks specific to their farm can be: 

2. develop biosecurity protocols

Once a risk assessment has been completed, biosecurity protocols can be created. This will help minimize the risk of disease entering the herd, help to contain it once a disease has been identified on premises and ensure it does not spread to other locations once established.  

Biosecurity is as easy as just a few simple things done right every day.”

Dr. Blake Balog, DVM, Bow Valley Livestock Health
biosecurity protocols stop disease in beef cattle from entering the herd (bio-exclusion), spreading within the herd (bio-management and leaving the herd (bio-containment)
dirty cowboy boots -- cleaning to remove organic materials and disinfecting to destroy pathogens

Cleaning and Disinfecting

Cleaning and disinfecting are two different things and are important parts of biosecurity. Cleaning refers to the removal of organic materials and any barriers preventing the effectiveness of chemical disinfectants. Cleaning can be broken into dry cleaning (physically removing organic matter, such as manure), wet cleaning (applying detergent and water) and drying completely. Disinfecting involves applying chemical compounds designed to destroy specific pathogens and can only take place when surfaces are clean and dry. The disinfecting product must have access to the pathogens on a surface for a defined amount of time. 

Biosecurity for Endemic (Common) Disease Management 

An endemic disease is a disease that is always present in a particular population or region and is expected to remain indefinitely. Common examples of endemic diseases in Canadian beef herds are infectious bovine rhinotracheitis (IBR), bovine viral diarrhea (BVD) and Johne’s disease. 

Preventative practices are a producer’s best protection against endemic disease and include vaccination of the herd, good sanitation and biosecurity practices, optimal nutrition and genetic selection

Biosecurity for Reportable Disease Management  

According to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), reportable diseases are significant to human or animal health, or to the Canadian economy. Sometimes referred to as “foreign animal diseases” or “emerging diseases” in the case of newer pathogens, they are not generally present in the industry, have been eradicated or occur very rarely. Examples of reportable diseases include bluetongue, bovine tuberculosis and foot and mouth disease. 

Reportable diseases have the potential to restrict Canada’s trade and export capacity and can negatively affect consumer preferences and industry practices. The prevention of foreign animal diseases is the responsibility of all international travelers and foreign workers and involves respecting and following biosecurity measures to ensure the safety of the industry. 

To learn more about biosecurity or the Canadian Beef Cattle On-Farm Biosecurity Standard and manual, visit our new Biosecurity webpage, which can be found in the navigation menu under “For Producers” > “Animal Health, Welfare & Antimicrobial Resistance” > “Biosecurity.”  

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