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Biosecurity for Canadian Cervid Farms Producer Planning Guide
Chapter 3: Developing a farm biosecurity plan

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Steps in developing a farm specific biosecurity plan

Developing a farm or facility biosecurity plan involves achieving the right balance between disease risk and prevention. Biosecurity can substantially reduce disease risks; however, producers will need to evaluate the expected benefits (such as improved health, productivity and welfare) against the feasibility and costs of implementation, and the impacts associated with the disease occurring.

Prior to developing a biosecurity plan, it is important to understand the potential disease risks to the herd, the pathogens responsible and how they are transmitted.

Disease risks: Consider cervid diseases present in the herd, those that commonly occur in the local area and those that less commonly occur but may be present. Some diseases may be important to your herd or at a regional or national level.

Pathogens: Understand the pathogens responsible for the disease. Some bacteria such as those responsible for Johne's disease or tuberculosis (Mycobacteria) can be shed by infected animals and survive for a long time in the environment under cool, damp conditions. Prions associated with Chronic Wasting Disease have been shown to be extremely persistent in the environment.

Transmission route: know the routes of transmission of the diseases of primary concern. Each disease is transmitted in specific ways  – for example, by direct contact with infected animals or by indirect contact with the infectious agent through manure, air, water and feed, or by contact with tools, equipment or any facilities contaminated with infectious material.

Ensuring the nutritional and physiological needs of cervids, which together with proper handling practices help minimize stress factors, thereby reducing susceptibility to infectious diseases.

Refer to the National Cervid Farm-Level Biosecurity Standard, Chapter 2: Principles of disease transmission.

Step 1: Review management practices (Assess / Plan)

The location of the premises and farm management practices pose risks for disease exposure and transmission. By examining the premises and identifying the activities that occur on the farm, potential disease transmission risks can be identified and then management practices developed to minimize their occurrence.

Farm location, particularly proximity to other farms with similar species and high livestock density, can increase opportunities for pathogens to be present and introduced into your herd. The presence of ponds and wild animal habitat can result in exposure to pathogens and animals of unknown health status.

Most animal care and management practices pose a risk for introducing and spreading disease whether it is daily feeding or less frequent service calls. One way to identify biosecurity risks is to list the steps involved in completing a task and asses the likelihood for disease transmission.

Complete a biosecurity risk evaluation and review the biosecurity plan annually.

Refer to Appendix 2: Biosecurity Risk Evaluation Checklist.

Step 2: Identify biosecurity goals and best practices (Plan)

Using the biosecurity standard and guide, identify biosecurity goals and best practices that can be implemented to address the biosecurity gaps. Many of the biosecurity measures will be effective at minimizing the risks posed by a wide range of pathogens and pests during farm activities. However, there are some pathogens and activities that may require specific interventions. Producers should discuss these needs with their veterinarian and/or provincial/industry specialists to ensure the biosecurity measures are adequate for the identified risks.

Step 3: Develop a strategy to implement the plan (Implement)

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 identifying short term and long-term goals. This can improve farm efficiencies by helping to direct resources (e.g. finances, time, and labour etc.) to the areas of greatest risk.

One method of prioritizing biosecurity risks is to consider the likelihood of the biosecurity risk to be present or to occur and the consequence of it occurring. The significance of the risk is then determined by the interaction of the likelihood and consequence of it occurring.

When looking to implement the plan, 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
  • 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
  • expand the overall goals and objectives of your management plan beyond their current scope

Step 4: Review the effectiveness of the biosecurity plan and continuous improvement (Monitor)

The effectiveness of the biosecurity plan is measured by the integration of biosecurity practices, into daily routines and the impact on the health status of cervids on the property. It is through monitoring and reviewing the biosecurity program that improvements can be implemented.

  • assess the applicability and effectiveness of the biosecurity practices by reviewing key health performance indicators from the herd health records during and after implementation of the biosecurity plan and as changes to the plan are made
  • consult with your veterinarian and other industry/provincial specialists on biosecurity and adjust your plan as necessary
  • meet with family and staff at least twice yearly or after implementing a new practice to discuss the feasibility and effectiveness of each of the practices in your biosecurity plan
  • review education and training sessions to identify areas for improvement

Figure 1: Developing and maintaining your biosecurity plan

Figure 1: Developing and maintaining your biosecurity plan. Description follows.
Description of Figure 1 - Developing and maintaining your biosecurity plan

Figure 1 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 the animal health risks posed by pathogens and pests on an on-going basis. To the right of the word Plan there is a box with the following text inside: Develop a written biosecurity plan. Below the word Implement is a text box with the following text inside: Put the plan into action. To the left of the word Monitor is a text box with the following text: Develop and implement a monitoring program and adjust your biosecurity plan accordingly.

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