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National Farm - Level Mink Biosecurity Standard - Producers' Guide
Section 1: Access Management

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The disease literature documents that the movement of people, wildlife, pets, and other disease vectors, in addition to equipment and vehicles, are important routes for bringing microbial pathogens onto a premises or into a shed. Many diseases, including Aleutian disease, mink virus enteritis, mink distemper, ringworm, and others are carried onto farms by disease-carrying vectors. Controlling access to the site and to the areas where the mink are housed is an important biosecurity principle.

1.1 Biosecure Zones – Keep Disease Out

1.1.1 Target Outcome

Biosecure zones and controlled access points are established to control access to the premises, mink sheds, and other critical production areas.

Biosecure zones allow the separation and protection of farm areas from people, materials, animals, products, and equipment that may pose a risk to mink health due to contamination from or infection with disease pathogens.

Identifying and implementing biosecurity measures that are specific to outer and inner zones ensures that multiple protective measures must be breached before microbial pathogens gain access to the most critical area of the site – where mink are housed. It also minimizes the risk of disease pathogens spreading from the mink housing and the mortality/manure storage areas to the rest of the site and off the farm.

Employ a three-zone concept for the farm site/premises:

1. Determine Boundaries of the Site – The Premises

The premises refers to the entire property on which the mink are raised and is interchangeable with the term farm site.

2. Establish a Controlled Access Zone

The controlled access zone (CAZ) refers to the area of land and buildings constituting the mink production area of the premises that is surrounded by a security fence and only accessible through a securable controlled access point. A CAZ restricts the access of visitors, vehicles, equipment, and animals (including wildlife) at the perimeter of the mink production area. The CAZ may include mink sheds/housing areas, the feed kitchen, feed storage areas, supply storage, and waste storage (manure, compost, and carcass storage). The CAZ should exclude personal residences to minimize unnecessary access by family and visitors. Gates, fences, and barriers must be properly designed and maintained. For enclosed sheds that do not have a security fence, there is the potential that disease-carrying animals could get into close proximity of housed mink and transmit air-borne pathogens.

3. Fence the Controlled Access Zone

A security fence surrounding the CAZ provides greater control over all areas that can affect mink health, and thus is preferred to fencing the restricted access zone (RAZ). If only one fence exists on the premises, then it is preferred that it exists around the CAZ.

4. Establish Controlled Access Points

A controlled access point (CAP) regulates access to the CAZ and RAZ. It is a single point, or a designated entrance, to a specific area that enables traffic control and ensures that equipment and procedures are available to effect biosecurity measures. The access point to the RAZ may be a single door, gate, or barrier that can be locked or secured to prevent access.

5. Establish a Restricted Access Zone

A RAZ controls access to the mink sheds, or areas where mink are housed, and should include the feed kitchen. For practical purposes, it may also contain the pelting area. Including the feed kitchen in the RAZ minimizes access to, and possible contamination of, feed ingredients and feed. It is practical in that it allows free movement within the zone when feeding; if the feed kitchen is located outside the RAZ, additional biosecurity measures are required to move between the mink and feed kitchen.

Consider this area a fortress where only essential personnel may enter wearing clean, biosecure clothing. A fence that surrounds the mink housing area prevents mink from escaping and wild animals, livestock, or people coming into contact with the mink.

A single RAZ may be suitable for sites where all mink are of the same health status. If possible, use security fencing to isolate the RAZ, further protecting the health and security of mink. Separate fencing around the RAZ is beneficial, as many farm premises have considerable activity in the CAZ. for instance, the delivery of feed or feed ingredients, and of mink carcasses for pelting.

Fences help to mitigate the risk of mink escaping from the farm and of introducing disease and genetic traits into the wild population. Fences also mitigate the risk of disease introduction into farmed mink from pests and contaminants. Using a 1.25 inch fence (i.e. mesh size) is now common and is effective at controlling mink but ineffective at preventing rodent access. Solid fencing is best, as it keeps out rodents and does not provide a climbing surface for pests such as raccoons. The cost/benefit ratio of solid fencing should be assessed; for those producers who wish to maintain an Aleutian disease-free herd, it may be a reasonable option.

Multiple RAZs may be necessary if mink are housed in different areas on the site; for example, to maintain the health of valuable breeding males and females after the kits are weaned or when establishing a disease-free herd.

Since pelting areas may also be located in the RAZ, it must be remembered that these activities can result in the contamination of staff, equipment and the environment with infectious pathogens; the implementation of appropriate biosecurity measures contributes to preventing disease carriage to breeding animals and housing areas. Pelting is a high-risk activity, especially custom pelting operations, so the pelting operation must be kept away from the feed kitchen and feed ingredients.

Mink from other farms that are brought onto your farm for custom processing in the pelting area RAZ pose a high risk for disease spread. For vehicle entry and exit from the farm and the handling of these mink, there must be strict biosecurity procedures in place for staff. In addition, movement on-farm and sanitation must be followed to avoid the introduction of microbial pathogens into the farm's mink population.

To prevent the transmission of microbial pathogens, caution and strict adherence to biosecurity procedures when transporting mink is also required when transporting mink to off-premises custom pelting or processing plants, which are also considered a RAZ.

Feed kitchen areas are also considered part of the RAZ, as many feed ingredients pose biological or chemical risks to the mink population. Strict adherence to biosecurity protocols concerning RAZs is required when entering or leaving this area.

Exclude on-farm visitors where appropriate. Allow visitor entry with special permission only; supervise visitors, provide clean biosecure outer clothing for visitors, and ensure visitors sanitize their hands.

Most biosecurity programs recommend a single entrance to the main shed, which is equipped with a locked door and a doorbell, to protect against risks posed by uninvited visitors.

Figure 1 presents an example that highlights the concepts in implementing premises, CAZ and RAZ biosecurity zones. (Appendix C provides additional site plan examples and potential approaches to implementing biosecurity zones for more complex operations.)

Figure 1: Biosecurity Zones for Mink Premises, CAZ and RAZ
Flowchart - Biosecurity Zones for Mink Premises Description follows.
Description for the graphic illustrating biosecurity zones for Mink Premises, CAZ and RAZ


Light Brown = Transition Area

Light Orange = Controlled Access Point Gate

Yellow = Controlled Access Zone (CAZ)

Purple = Controlled Access Point Door

Red stop sign = No Entry Signage

Dark Orange = Restricted Access Zone (RAZ)

Dark Brown = Door

The premises show a yellow CAZ area with controlled access point gates at each end. The CAZ area contains a dark orange RAZ area with two mink sheds inside with doors at each end and security fencing along the side. An office is located off both the RAZ area and the CAZ area with designated parking and a laneway at one end and a secondary laneway at the other end.

The sample site plan (Figure 1) identifies three biosecurity zones for the premises (i.e.: outside the CAZ ), the CAZ and the RAZ. The two mink sheds (indicated by gray rectangles) in the center of the diagram are contained within a RAZ (represented by a red and black filled rectangle). A CAZ (represented by a yellow and black hatch-marked rectangle surrounds the RAZ. A transition area (identified by a brown square) located in the CAZ abuts the RAZ. A laneway leads from the road on the far left of the diagram, enters the premises and leads to a parking area and an office, all within in the premises zone. A secondary laneway on the far right of the diagram exits the CAZ. Key features include:

  1. primary and secondary access points where the secondary access point / laneway is used for waste removal and mink shipments, while the primary access point is used for everything else;
  2. parking for staff and visitors, which is located outside the CAZ;
  3. an office where visitors sign in for possible entry to the transition area and the CAZ;
  4. security fencing of the CAZ and the RAZ;
  5. controlled access points and transition areas that meet biosecurity protocols to enter the CAZ and/or the RAZ; and
  6. doors, with biosecurity signage (red octagons), used as barriers to the CAZ and the RAZ, for managing access at the controlled access points by staff and visitors.

1.1.2 Target Outcome

Biosecure zones and controlled access points are easily identified.

Compliance with biosecurity measures is enhanced by ensuring staff and visitors can easily identify what areas of the premises they can and cannot access and what measures are required to enter biosecure areas.

Suggested best practices:

  1. Visually identify biosecure zones and the CAPs; this may be accomplished with signage, fencing, boundary markers, doors, and gates.
  2. Post signage that is clearly visible to warn visitors to stay away and to direct essential visitors to the appropriate location for entry.
  3. Use physical barriers (chains, gates, fences), in addition to signage, to identify the zones. Signage alone is often insufficient to deter visitors that fail to notice or intentionally disregard signs. Signage tends to be more effective when there is an informative message such as the biosecurity protocol and when there are questions related to visitor compliance.
  4. Ensure vehicles and equipment entering or leaving the CAZ and RAZ meet sanitation requirements to prevent the introduction of disease pathogens and their spread. Restricting access to one entry point will lessen potential problems.
  5. Review the barriers in place to prevent the introduction, release, and/or escape of mink by considering doors in addition to fences – specifically, how many doors must a mink go through to get onto and off the premises?
  6. Be aware that, without a CAP, there is no ability to prevent the introduction of microbial pathogens.
  7. Provide a designated parking area for visitors and staff. Locate the designated parking area outside the CAZ. Only dedicated farm vehicles should be in the CAZ. Inspect vehicles before they enter the CAZ to ensure they are visually clean.
  8. Define a designated area for conducting sanitation procedures when entering the CAZ. Develop cleaning and disinfection (C&D) protocols, providing at the sanitation station.
  9. Thoroughly clean and disinfect equipment for entry and exit to the RAZ. The minimum C&D process is to wash and disinfect the undercarriage of vehicles (e.g. tires, wheels, wheel wells, and underbody). Clean and disinfect the entire vehicle when the vehicle has organic material present. During a disease situation, C&D is required for equipment and vehicles moving onto and off the premises, and in cold weather, a wash bay may be necessary.

1.2 Entry, Movement, and Exit Protocols – Control

1.2.1 Target Outcome

Staff and visitors understand and respect site biosecure zones and comply with procedures for movement.

Biosecure zones are used to create areas where the spread of microbial pathogens can be reduced by employing biosecurity measures. The zones are only effective at minimizing the transmission of infectious pathogens if measures to prevent this transmission are applied when moving between and within zones.

Suggested best practices:

For staff:

  1. Instruct staff on the importance and purpose of the CAZ and RAZ; the use of a single CAP to the CAZ and RAZ areas will reduce disease risks.
  2. Train staff in protocols for entering the premises, the CAZ and the RAZ (mink housing areas); include procedures for movements within and between these areas and exit protocols.
  3. Define an area outside the CAZ for staff to park their vehicles, and indicate the area, using markings or signage. Staff vehicles should never enter the CAZ or RAZ. Only allow dedicated farm vehicles in the CAZ.

For visitors:

  1. Ideally, do not allow visitors onto the premises and when visitor access is necessary, only allow access by appointment.
  2. Require all visitors to enter and exit through a single CAP to the CAZ and RAZ.
  3. Train staff and essential visitors (such as veterinarians and fur graders) in protocols for entering the premises, CAZ. and RAZ; include procedures for movements within and between these areas and exit protocols. A staff member should escort non-essential visitors.
  4. Prevent access of the CAZ and RAZ by other non-essential visitors – particularly those with previous mink exposure, such as other mink producers.
  5. Know the history of visitors. Visitors should sign the Visitor Log prior to entering the CAZ to keep a record of all visitors to the farm. Visitor information collected includes visitor name and company, and when, where, and purpose of their last mink contact.
  6. Apart from staff, only veterinarians or fur graders should be allowed to handle mink.
  7. Define an area outside the CAZ for visitors to park their vehicles, and indicate the area using markings or signage. Visitor vehicles should never enter the CAZ or RAZ. Delivery vehicles should follow C&D protocols if they enter the CAZ.

1.2.2 Target Outcome

Biosecurity procedures are required for (and complied to by) staff and visitors entering and exiting the CAZ and RAZ.

Procedures are necessary to reduce the transmission of microbial pathogens by staff and visitors into and out of the mink production and housing areas on clothing, footwear, and the person.

Suggested best practices:

For staff:

  1. Employees should arrive at work in clean clothing, which allows a break in microbial pathogen transmission.
  2. Farm employees should wear farm-dedicated outer clothing and footwear (boots). It is important that the footwear be adequately cleaned and disinfected – ideally, rubber boots. (Most footwear made of other materials does not allow for adequate C&D.)
  3. Staff should wear dedicated protective clothing (cover-ups) and boots, and should sanitize their hands when entering the CAZ and RAZ. This clothing should remain in these areas while in use. Dedicated clothing should be removed before leaving (even temporarily) the CAZ and RAZ and put back on when returning.
  4. The potential entry or spread of microbial pathogens can be reduced by a ready supply of farm clothing available for staff, either supplied by the individuals or by the farm owner, and that remains on the farm.
  5. Biosecurity clothing should be kept in a clean and dry location (clean storage room or clean container) to ensure clothing remains clean. Use separate lockers or totes for clean and dirty clothing; it is important to maintain separation of clothing to break disease transmission. If this clothing is removed from the CAZ or RAZ for washing or disposal, ensure that it is handled or disposed of in a biosecure manner.

For Visitors:

  1. Ensure visitors follow biosecurity protocols and put on disposable outer clothing (either supplied by the visitor or by the farm) or don farm-designated coveralls that are routinely laundered at a sufficiently hot temperature to kill microbial pathogens.
  2. Use overboots or treaders versus plastic boot covers for visitors. The former are much more durable and can be re-used, whereas the latter rip and can be slick in snow and wet weather and can fall off. Clean footwear prior to entering the RAZ, performing a boot change or using a boot wash station.
  3. Store soiled laundry and soiled footwear (boots) in a sealed container until laundered and cleaned and disinfected, respectively.
  4. Ensure visitors sanitize or wash their hands prior to entering and exiting the CAZ and RAZ. The biosecurity protocols posted at the CAP and in the transition area (TA) need to be available to visitors.

1.2.3 Target Outcome

Staff and visitors wear appropriate personal protective biosecurity clothing/equipment and practise strict biosecurity procedures when performing duties which either cross multiple biosecure zones and/or involve significant exposure to microbial pathogens.

Developing and implementing appropriate biosecurity standard operating procedures (SOPs) is critical when performing tasks that involve direct contact with materials with an increased risk of exposure to microbial pathogens such as the following:

  • manure
  • mink that are found dead
  • mink carcasses and fat from pelting

The protocols to follow and the protective biosecurity equipment to use must prevent contamination of the individual and the production area, and avoid direct or indirect transmission of microbial pathogens to live animals.

Suggested best practices:

  1. Pay strict attention to biosecurity for any animal-handling activity such as pelting, vaccinating, and carcass, fat, and manure disposal, because of their significant potential to spread microbial pathogens.
  2. Have staff and essential visitors use dedicated mink handling and treatment equipment (e.g. catching mitts, vaccination equipment, and transportation pens) for different tasks to minimize the spread of microbial pathogens.
  3. Clean and disinfect personal protective biosecurity clothing and equipment between uses.

1.2.4 Target Outcome

Controlled access points (CAPs) have the necessary equipment and materials to implement biosecurity procedures.

The requirements established for entry and exit at each zone dictate the equipment and materials that must be provided for staff and visitors to comply. This may include, but is not limited to, clean boots and coveralls, boot cleaning, and disinfecting materials, hand sanitizers, and paper towels.

Producers are encouraged to advise suppliers and essential visitors to bring their own biosecure clothing but producers should retain a supply of biosecure clothing in case suppliers or visitors forget or do not comply with this request.

Suggested best practices:

  1. Provide staff with clean dedicated farm clothes (cover-ups and boots) and visitors with new disposable or clean dedicated farm clothing and boots. Keep biosecurity clothing in a clean and dry container to ensure it remains clean. Consider lockers or totes for clean and dirty clothing; it is important to maintain separation of clothing to break disease transmission.
  2. Provide handwashing facilities or hand sanitizer at the CAP. Hand sanitation facilities should be located in the transition areas. Hand sanitizers should be available and used at the entrance of the RAZs.
  3. Provide and properly maintain a station for boot changes or boot cleaning at the entry to the CAZ and RAZ. Ensure boot sanitation is carried out when entering or leaving the CAZ and RAZ:
    1. Clean boots can be more effectively disinfected than dirty ones. Research demonstrates that, for the removal of bacteria, scrubbing visible manure off boots using water is as effective as scrubbing visible manure off boots using disinfectants. It is recommended that there be facilities provided to pre-clean footwear.
    2. Ensure that surfaces (footwear) are clean prior to disinfection. To be effective, the disinfectant must contact the clean surface, and disinfectant activity is reduced in the presence of organic material. Therefore, boot washes are preferred to boot baths.
    3. Be aware that simply walking through a boot bath will not disinfect boots. Every disinfectant requires a different exposure time. Read the label carefully to understand the amount of time that long boots must be in contact with the disinfectant for effective use.
    4. Use boot baths that are long, wide, and a minimum of 10 cm (4 in) in depth.
    5. Ensure that the design of the boot bath facilitates easy drainage and are protected from the weather.
    6. Replace disinfectant regularly, following the manufacturer's directions. Dirty boot baths are ineffective and can be a medium for pathogen growth.
    7. On a multi-commodity farm, be aware that boots might be worn in different areas around the farm and in transit, but that boots can act as a vector for disease organisms. Boots worn on-farm should not be worn off-farm.
    8. Rather than using a boot bath, consider using different boots for different areas of the production unit. Systems for changing boots range from simply limiting the use of boots to the shed to using different boots in each room and hallway. Consider having an area to wash boots.
  4. Provide a clean dry location (i.e. transition area) to store the necessary clothing and materials, and perform the required biosecurity procedures.

Access Management Key Points: Biosecure Zones and Movement Protocols

Keep mink secure from strangers, visitors, and wildlife by controlling access to the sheds and farm and by establishing protective zones and implementing movement controls:

  1. Control entry to the mink housing and other production facilities on the farm site.
  2. Use barriers and signage or other readily visible indicators to alert visitors that they require the producer's permission to enter.
  3. Use dedicated on-farm clothes (i.e. not worn off the farm) to improve biosecurity.
  4. Provide visitors with protective clothing; at a minimum, supply boot covers and clean outerwear for visitors to put on before entering the RAZ and to take off when leaving the RAZ.
  5. Provide and require the use of equipment and supplies to wash or sanitize hands at the entrance of sheds.
  6. Provide and maintain an area at the entry of the CAZ and RAZ with the necessary equipment and supplies to clean and disinfect boots (i.e. a transition area with a boot wash).
  7. Ensure the entrance to the farm site and / or CAZ can be closed in the event the farm needs to be locked down.
  8. Locate designated parking for staff and visitors outside the CAZ.
  9. Install and maintain a properly constructed security fence that is designed to prevent the escape of mink and access by wildlife, feral animals, and escaped farmed mink.
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