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Biosecurity for Canadian Cervid Farms Producer Planning Guide
Chapter 1: Introduction and background

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1.1 Purpose of a national standard and planning guide

This document has been developed to support the National Cervid Farm-Level Biosecurity Standard and assist producers in developing and implementing farm-specific biosecurity plans to manage infectious diseases in the cervid Footnote 1 industry. It contains guidelines and recommendations on minimizing infectious disease risks and sample forms for producers to begin developing their biosecurity plan. The guide is organized in a similar manner to the standard and can be used in whole or in part.

Specialized knowledge in animal husbandry, behaviour and handling practices is required for raising cervids. Inexperienced cervid producers must educate themselves on species specific care and handling and should seek assistance from knowledgeable producers and/or provincial organizations to ensure the animal health and welfare needs of their animals are met.

1.2 What is biosecurity

Biosecurity is used to protect the health of animals from infectious diseases. It is a set of principles and practices that are used to reduce the risks posed by pathogens and pests. The biosecurity standard provides measures that cervid producers may take to minimize the introduction of pathogens and pests onto a farm, their spread within the operation, and release off the farm.

Biosecurity may be defined as a set of practices used to minimize the presence of pests and the transmission of pathogens in animal and plant populations including their introduction (bio-exclusion), spread within the populations (bio-management), and release (bio-containment).

Biosecurity relies on the consistent use of a combination of procedural measures and physical barriers designed to disrupt the transmission of pathogens. These measures and barriers target opportunities for pathogen transmission that occur during routine animal care (e.g. contact with potentially contaminated equipment or materials), risks posed by less frequent activities (e.g. introduction of new animals to the herd) and changing risks (e.g. increased movement of animals and people onto and off of a property). To be effective, biosecurity measures must be applied consistently day to day, and on an ongoing basis.

The threat of infectious disease is always present. In the context of most farm operations, completely eliminating all threats is usually impractical and not achievable. Therefore, at the farm level, it is more appropriate to view biosecurity in terms of risk management, rather than risk elimination.

Biosecurity requires balancing the:

  • risk of disease transmission
  • consequences of disease occurring
  • measures required to minimize disease

The level of disease risk that is considered acceptable is likely to vary among cervid producers based on their business goals, species raised, management practices, products marketed and individual risk tolerances. These factors should be taken into account when developing premises-specific biosecurity plans. Ideally, plan development should be accomplished with the assistance of a veterinarian familiar with the cervid industry and the internal and external disease threats. Biosecurity plans must be practical, achievable and sustainable. Because the consequences of disease are many and far reaching, cervid producers should not look at their own biosecurity and risk tolerance without consideration of the industry as a whole.

Biosecurity is not a new concept. Many daily activities that cervid producers perform include biosecurity measures. Many biosecurity measures are not difficult or expensive to implement.

1.3 Why is biosecurity important in the cervid industry

Animal health, welfare and food safety are intricately linked. Society demands that farm-raised animals are well cared for, free of disease and the products obtained are safe and of high quality. Freedom from disease and a high herd health status are important in Canada's cervid industry which raises elk, red deer, white-tailed deer, fallow deer, mule deer and reindeer. High herd health status facilitates market access, which is important for promoting the wide variety of cervid products which include meat, antler velvet, hard antler, trophy animals, and breeding stock.

The impacts of infectious disease in cervids can be significant and devastating. Disease can range from mild illness to death, from sporadic cases to extensive disease outbreaks. Even mild disease can result in chronic or permanent damage, decreased production (e.g. reproduction, product, and growth), increased financial costs, welfare concerns and potential risks to human health. Farms and facilities with poor biosecurity may become a significant risk to the industry. Every cervid producer should have a biosecurity plan that is implemented and reviewed on an ongoing basis.

What the standard and planning guide are and are not

The standard and planning guide are: The standard and planning guide are not:
Voluntary Mandatory
A set of risk-based management guidelines, addressing disease in a broad context, warranting thought and consideration in most cervid operations across Canada A list of "must-do(s)," designed for a specific disease, to be achieved regardless of regional and operational differences
Based upon target outcomes, each of which can be achieved in a variety of ways A prescriptive set of practices
Specific to biosecurity practices used by the Canadian cervid industry Taken from another sector or country, and re-designed for the Canadian cervid farming sector
Practical and science-based, developed with consideration for the transmission of infectious pathogens across the range of cervid production systems Idealistic, developed without consideration for the feasibility of implementation
Developed to address a broad range of cervid diseases Not focused on addressing a specific disease
A collaborative project, developed by producers, subject matter experts, advisory groups, and leaders in industry and government The work of one stakeholder
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