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Biosecurity for Canadian Cervid Farms Producer Planning Guide
Chapter 4: The biosecurity standard

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Principle 1: Management of farm, facilities and equipment

Goal: Minimize the effect that farm, facilities and equipment have as contributors to disease transmission.

Strategy 1.1: Assess the biosecurity risks of the area where the farm is located or to be located.

Target outcome

Producers understand the risks of the areas they have chosen or are choosing for their farm and manage the risks appropriately.


The location of a farm can affect the risk of disease exposure, particularly the proximity to other farms raising similar species, other livestock operations, wild animal habitat and the presence of diseases that may affect the particular species that you are planning to raise. When higher animal densities are present in an area, there can be increased shedding and accumulation of pathogens resulting in a greater risk of exposure. However, not all pathogens pose the same risk. The properties of the pathogen, such as the length of time it survives in the environment, the mode of transmission and the number of organisms required to result in infection will influence infection rates. Understanding these differences and the role environmental conditions play in pathogen survival is important in adequately assessing risks.

If constructing a new facility, areas that are less densely populated by cervids can reduce the risk of exposure to pathogens. However, in less densely populated livestock areas, access to veterinary services, feed suppliers and other farm services may be reduced. Assess your needs and balance the potential benefits of a location with the accessibility to farm services.

Best practices

  • Determine, to the extent possible
    • previous land use of the area
    • if land use includes previous or current livestock production, consider the risk of cervid pathogens and diseases on neighboring premises and within that region
  • Recognize that some pathogens can survive for extended periods of time in the environment (e.g. spore forming bacteria such as Bacillus spp. or Clostridia spp., and prions) or may be associated with certain environments due to their life-cycle (e.g. certain parasites)
  • Consider the effect of local climate factors such as temperature, rainfall, and hours of sunlight on pasture conditions and pathogen survival. Cool, damp areas with minimal sunlight can promote survival of many organisms
  • Determine the proximity to potential sources of disease from other cervid and livestock producers, livestock auctions, renderers and deadstock operators to minimize potential disease exposure
  • Construct new operations at a sufficient distance from other cervid farms and livestock farms to minimize potential disease spread
  • Determine the proximity to veterinary clinics, feed and equipment suppliers
  • Consider the proximity to wild animal habitat

Strategy 1.2: Assess and identify areas of risk on the farm 

Target outcome

Areas of risk on the farm are identified and managed to reduce risks.


Biosecurity plans are based on a risk assessment of the farm's operations, the people on the farm, providing service or visiting the farm facilities. An accepted approach to risk assessment is to consider the diseases of concern to the farm, and to document how those diseases are known to be transmitted. Then, identify where risk points exist in cervid operations, human activities, presence of known vectors such as pests, and facilities and how they are maintained. Risk points in this context are where pathogens could be transmitted, both directly to cervids and also indirectly to cervids via other means.

There are some areas on a farm and some activities that pose a greater potential risk of disease spread. Identifying these areas and activities allows practices to be implemented for reducing potential contamination to minimize opportunities for transmission to the herd during day-to-day activities. They allow the separation of areas requiring elevated biosecurity, for example locations where animals congregate or where treatments and handling procedures occur. Locations where pathogens may be present pose a higher risk; for example, isolation areas for sick animals or animals of undetermined health status. Additionally, pens/pastures bordered by livestock of unknown health status or animals that pose a potential health risk.

Activities requiring a higher degree of biosecurity may include: breeding, vaccination, other proactive health treatments, and disease observation. If the areas are designed correctly, biosecurity practices can be implemented with minimal disruption to normal production activities.

Lower-risk areas include facilities that support animal production or are indirectly involved in animal production (for example, areas where service providers and farm workers circulate, laneways, parking areas, and equipment sheds). It may also include pastures not currently occupied with animals, depending on history of use.

The layout and management practices of individual farms help to decide whether deadstock handling, production waste (for example manure), and other aspects should be managed as higher or lower risk areas.

Within higher risk areas (where animals are present), there will be differences in the population of animals. There are:

  • animals that pose a higher risk for transmitting a disease
    • animals that are clinically diseased
    • animals that have recently recovered from a disease
    • animals that have recently arrived and are of undetermined health status
  • animals that pose a higher risk for acquiring disease
    • young animals
    • animals that are failing to thrive
    • animals that have recently recovered from disease
    • animals that have recently undergone medical treatments / surgeries
    • animals exposed to a potentially stressful situation (for example: introduction of new animals, handling and transport of animals)

Designated risk areas can be enhanced when:

  • Risks are defined: A risk assessment of the production activities is undertaken, and their specific disease risks are determined. In order to effectively manage risk areas, appropriate biosecurity practices must be implemented
  • They create separation: By using physical barriers (such as buildings, fences, and secure gates) and/or procedures (such as hand sanitation, clothing and footwear changes/cleaning and disinfection), the risk areas remain free of common contact between them.
  • They are visible: The areas are clearly identified, and people understand the area-specific practices for entering, exiting and moving within them
  • Access by people is managed: Access by and movement of people (e.g. farm workers, family members, service providers and visitors) are managed to support bio-exclusion, bio-management and bio-containment
  • Animal movement is managed: Farm workers are aware of the risks of disease transmission associated with animal movement into and throughout the premises. Movement is planned to mitigate these risks
  • Transition points are identified: There is a visually-defined entry point through which all traffic (vehicles, people, animals, inputs and equipment) will enter risk areas, often referred to as controlled access points (CAPs). Specific biosecurity protocols may be in place at CAPs; for example, tools and equipment may be limited to use in only that area or specific cleaning and disinfection may be required. Hands may be washed, and protective clothing may be changed (e.g. coveralls) or cleaned (e.g. footwear)
  • They are specific to each operation: The size and complexity of each operation and its existing facility layout will contribute to the establishment of risk areas

Best practices

Visitors please respect farm biosecurity. Please contact the manager before entering. Do not enter property without prior approval. Keep to roadways and laneways.
  • Designate areas of higher and lower risk on the farm
  • Locate high-risk areas away from higher traffic areas and potential sources of contamination such as manure and deadstock storage/disposal areas
  • Manage the flow of traffic to minimize cross-contamination between areas of higher and lower risk
  • Avoid overcrowding animals
  • Display biosecurity signage, particularly at areas of higher risk, advising it is an area of limited access and additional biosecurity procedures may be required
  • Schedule activities in a sequence that will minimize disease transmission by people, equipment, vehicles, and materials, and move from younger to older and then sick animals during routine care
  • Establish CAPs, such as gates or doors, and provide the necessary equipment for implementing the required biosecurity measures

Strategy 1.3: Create a diagram of the farm layout

Target outcome

A farm diagram is used to illustrate farm layout, infrastructure and risk areas.


The use of a map or diagram of the farm layout is recommended to facilitate disease risk management. In addition to farm layout and infrastructure, the diagram can highlight areas of specific activities where cervids of different disease susceptibility might be exposed to one another; where people, tools, equipment and vehicles might come in contact with cervids; and where pathogens might be present on the farm.

Best practices

Identify the following areas on a farm diagram:

  • Property boundaries, fence lines, neighbouring livestock and wild animal habitat if present
  • Entrances to the property, other access points, gates, barriers, and the location of signage
  • Parking areas, driveways, lanes, and walkways
  • Home area
  • Farm buildings including animal shelters, equipment sheds, and farm office
  • Animal handling areas, loading and unloading facilities
  • Pastures, pens and isolation areas
  • Housing and pasture areas for other farm animals
  • Storage areas for feed, bedding, deadstock and/or compost, wells and other water sources
  • Receiving and shipping area(s)
  • Location of utilities and resource right of ways and fuel delivery/storage
  • Traffic flows for the movements of vehicles, equipment, people and animals as appropriate (for example pasture rotation)

Refer to farm diagrams in Appendix 3

Strategy 1.4: Clean and disinfect facilities, equipment and vehicles

Target outcome

Cleaning and disinfection methods that are effective in reducing the risk of disease transmission are established and are used for facilities, equipment and vehicles entering, exiting and on the farm.


Cleaning and disinfection are important activities to minimize the accumulation of pathogens and reduce the risk of disease transmission. Clean handling facilities, pen areas, feeders, waterers, equipment and vehicles as necessary to remove organic material that can harbour pathogens or other contaminants; disinfect as required. Frequent cleaning and disinfection reduces the build-up of biofilms on surfaces; biofilms can protect and even promote the growth of certain organisms. Biofilms can also damage surfaces so removing them can minimize damage to infrastructure. Scheduled cleaning and disinfection minimizes the accumulation of pathogens, debris, organic material, and biofilms, and reduces the infection pressure to which animals are exposed.

Chemicals used to disinfect are not effective if the surface has not been previously thoroughly cleaned of organic matter. Disinfectant use is guided by the principle: the right product for the right contact time for the right reasons used in the right manner. Drying must occur after cleaning and after disinfection. Cleaning and disinfection protocols should be developed to address farm specific identified risks. The protocol should explain the cleaning procedure and identify which disinfectants are appropriate.

Employing a sufficient downtime cycle between uses –a period of time without animals –allows specific disease agents to be inactivated by natural processes and significantly reduces pathogen and parasite loads. The time period will vary depending on the disease agent of concern. However, some organisms will live for months (e.g. parasites) to years (e.g. the bacteria which cause necrobacillosis, Johne's disease, coccidial oocysts, spores which cause anthrax and clostridial diseases, and prions associated with Chronic Wasting Disease).

Refer to Appendix 4: Selected disinfectants and Appendix 5: Cleaning and disinfecting procedures

It is important that facilities be designed to facilitate cleaning and disinfection, and consideration is given to using materials and equipment that can readily be disinfected. Materials with porous surfaces should be avoided where possible.

Best practices

  • Implement a cleaning and disinfection plan for pathogen control on vehicles, equipment, tools and environmental surfaces. Establish cleaning and disinfection protocols and a schedule for cleaning and disinfecting the farm or facility. Common contact surfaces for animals are especially important. Protocols should address:
    • handling squeeze – should be cleaned and disinfected after each day of use
    • shelters and handling facilities, equipment such as shovels, tractors, vehicles, and trailers
    • feed storage areas and bins, feed and water troughs and bowls to eliminate contamination from rodents and other pests, and any manure or feces
  • Identify suitable locations for performing cleaning and disinfection of vehicles and portable equipment, particularly during inclement weather
  • Ensure the necessary equipment (e.g. washers, sprayers, shovels, etc.) and supplies (detergent, disinfectant, water, etc.) are available at the necessary locations, particularly CAPs
  • Clean and disinfect facilities, equipment and trailers prior to using for new animals, young animals and following illness in the herd
  • Clean and disinfect equipment used for invasive procedures between animals
  • Always thoroughly clean surfaces before disinfecting because disinfectants are typically ineffective in the presence of organic material
  • Use an effective disinfectant that can inactivate the relevant pathogens
  • Employ downtime as part of the cleaning procedure for pens and pasture areas
  • Clean and, where possible, disinfect pens and other containment areas based on use and risk: deadstock, abortions, illness, animal density, level of contamination and health status of animals are considerations for cleaning and disinfection
  • Keep pathways, CAPs, gates, and entrances to pens and pastures free of debris and manure to minimize tracking between areas

Strategy 1.5: Design and maintain facilities to reduce disease risks

Target outcome

Facilities are designed and maintained in good repair to reduce access by pests, facilitate cleaning and disinfection, and reduce the accumulation of pathogens and populations of pests. Considerations for biosecurity should be included when selecting a location and designing or renovating facilities.


Facilities, including buildings, barns, handling squeeze, fences, and pens, are not generally the means of introducing disease to the herd. Nevertheless, their involvement may lie in the persistent transfer of disease within a herd, where they are repeatedly used to shelter or process cervids, some of which may have disease. Thus, keeping facilities clean helps reduce the possible transfer of disease within a herd.

Best practices

  • Maintain surfaces in good condition, especially those with which cervids can come into direct contact. Damaged surfaces, such as gaps, cracks, and pores, could result in ineffective cleaning and disinfection because of remaining viable infectious material
  • Select durable and non-porous materials when repairing, renovating or building farm infrastructure particularly for higher risk contact areas
  • Keep feed and bedding storage areas secure to minimize contamination from potential carriers of disease (e.g. wild animals, pests and rodents)
  • Consider disease risks and the ability to implement biosecurity when selecting locations for either establishing a cervid farm and/or when managing existing operations; locating pasture and production areas, handling areas, handling squeeze, raceways, buildings and other infrastructure
  • Facility design should always consider reducing potential injury and stress, especially during handling procedures
  • Minimize the potential impacts of social structure and behavioural stressors on animals: for example, a pen of animals may need to be divided into two to manage animals that are being dominated/stressed by other animals. Consider behaviour differences in cervid species

Strategy 1.6: Reduce risk posed by equipment and vehicles

Target outcome

Vehicle and equipment access to and movement within the farm premises is managed to reduce the risk of disease transmission.


Vehicles, including cars, trucks, and trailers can serve as mechanical vectors for pathogen and pest transmission, often over long distances. Farm equipment such as quads, feed carts and tools can spread pathogens within the farm while service providers can spread pathogens between farms.

Best practices

Entering and exiting the farm
  • Limit the unnecessary access of vehicles to the property
  • Determine the potential risk posed by service vehicles and restrict access of vehicles including feed deliveries, contractors and other suppliers to lower risk areas where contact with animals will not occur
  • Designate parking areas outside of animal production areas and use farm dedicated transport vehicles within the production areas
  • Where practical, scrape out, clean and disinfect vehicles away from animal production areas.
  • Clean and disinfect vehicles and equipment entering high risk areas
  • Give special consideration to:
    • high-risk vehicles, such as those that transport animals, especially animals from other herds
    • other vehicles, such as visitors' and service providers' vehicles, especially those that have driven on other farms
  • Clean the tires and undercarriage of vehicles and clean and disinfect the common contact surfaces used for animal transport
  • Wherever possible, provide loading and unloading facilities at the perimeter of the production area
  • Allow access of deadstock and manure haulers to areas where contact with animals and feed is unlikely to occur
On farm
  • Schedule farm activities such as feeding and the movement of feed carts, quads and other tools from lower risk to higher risk areas (e.g. from healthy calves to sick calves)
  • Dedicate equipment and tools for use only with sick animals

Strategy 1.7: Manage manure

Target outcome

Accumulations of manure, particularly in winter housing, and around feeding and watering areas are regularly removed and moved in a manner that limits exposure to the herd. Manure is managed and disposed of to reduce the opportunity for the build-up of pathogens and pest populations and potential contamination of production areas and pastures. Dedicated tools and equipment are used for manure handling, or cleaned and disinfected, prior to other uses.


Many important pathogens including viruses, bacteria (e.g. necrobacillosis, Johne's), prions (e.g. CWD) and parasites are shed in cervid manure, and may be an important source of environmental contamination. The degree of risk posed by pathogens in manure may be greater in intensive management situations, where manure may more readily accumulate and is also protected from natural degradation by weather elements.

Manure that is brought on to the farm from other sources for use as fertilizer also poses a risk.

Composting can be an effective method of managing manure and involves the aerobic (in the presence of oxygen) decomposition of material. It is an active process; requires appropriate nutrient ratios, moisture and mixing; and generates heat. This process is distinct from anaerobic (without oxygen) decomposition of material and/or weathering of manure which does not produce sufficient heat to inactivate pathogens and pests. Aerobic composting also reduces odors that can occur through anaerobic composting or piling manure reduces the volume of material and increases the availability of nutrients.

Best practices

  • Minimize accumulations of manure and exposure to fecal parasites and pathogens by managing pasture and production areas
  • Manage feeding and pastures by moving feeding locations and using pasture rotation where appropriate
  • Manage stocking density to prevent accumulation and exposure to fecal parasites and pathogens
  • Regularly remove manure accumulations in winter housing areas, feeding and watering areas and calving pens
  • Only spread composted manure on pastures
  • Avoid spreading manure on pastures currently being grazed

Strategy 1.8: Manage feed, water and bedding

Target outcome

Management practices are in place to ensure that feed, water, and bedding are of sufficient quantity and quality, and mitigation measures are in place to reduce the risk by pathogens and pests.


Feed, water, and bedding (where used) may all pose a risk of introduction of disease. Obtain inputs from safe and reliable sources and protect them from contamination by pathogen and pests when on farm.

However, there may be circumstances in which the safety, reliability, or efficacy of certain inputs may be beyond a producer's control. For example, water may be contaminated by animals (domestic or wild) or other factors, on a seasonal basis or as a result of a specific event. Open water sources such as ponds and lakes and seasonally wet areas can be a source of and/or promote the survival of pathogens and parasites including those responsible for tuberculosis, Johne's disease, leptospirosis, necrobacillosis, and liver flukes among others.

Producers should be aware of these risks and manage them through a range of practices that may include selection of different sources, increased monitoring, and vaccination.

Best practices

  • Provide water from the cleanest source available. Municipal water supplies provide good assurance of potable water. Well water, natural streams and ponds or snow (if sufficient clean and loose snow cover is available) in extensive grazing systems can be used
  • Protect surface water sources from contamination and test the water supply if there are concerns to herd health
  • Treat water (e.g. filtration, ultraviolet light, chlorination or ozone) when water sources are suspected and/or determined to be contaminated with pathogens and other non-infectious materials (e.g. higher levels of minerals and other contaminants)
  • Consider the grazing history/land use of forage and feed sources
  • Consider the source and potential risk of grain screenings prior to using as a feed source
  • Obtain feed from suppliers with protocols to ensure raw materials are harvested, stored, and transported in a manner that mitigates contamination from pathogens and pests and disease spread
  • Obtain feed ingredients supplements and concentrates from companies with quality control programs
  • Use feed bunks to minimize contamination of feed and supplements and accumulations of feed that may attract other livestock and pests
  • Clean feed bunks and water troughs (where used) regularly; feed accumulations, sediment, manure, saliva, respiratory secretions and biofilms can harbour pathogens and spread disease within a herd
  • Protect stored feed, harvested feed and supplements from contamination by pests, manure and from spoilage; use pest proof structures/bins/silos where practical. Alternatively, fencing and covered shelters (or tarps) can minimize access to feed by wild animals
  • Obtain clean, dry bedding from known sources and store in a manner to maintain quality;
  • Where bedding is used, remove and replace soiled bedding regularly and after illness in the herd; pay additional attention to ensure bedding for calves and in isolation and sick pens is removed and replaced daily or at a high frequency to minimize pathogen accumulation

Strategy 1.9: Manage deadstock

Target outcome

Deadstock, unless anthrax is suspected, are removed immediately from livestock rearing areas and moved in a manner that limits cross-contamination with the herd. Aborted material and other tissues are managed as deadstock. The deadstock disposal area is located away from the production area and is secured against domestic and wild animals. Disposal respects local regulations and is done in a manner that limits disease exposure to the herd.


Preventing direct and indirect contact with deadstock is an important means of controlling disease.

Deadstock and aborted fetuses may be associated with the presence of disease. Therefore, efforts should be made to determine the underlying cause. Post-mortem examinations and disease investigations should be conducted when the cause of death or abortion is not readily apparent. These examinations and investigations provide significant information and can assist in reducing additional health risks to the herd from infectious and non-infectious sources. Post-mortem examinations should be conducted as soon as possible following death of an animal to acquire tissue samples of high quality and to prevent scavenging of the carcass.

Where reportable and immediately notifiable diseases are a concern contact your veterinarian and the appropriate government authorities. Examples include anthrax and CWD.

Disposal by natural means is allowed in certain provinces on range or pasture, and is subject to conditions. Other means available for disposing of livestock may include burying, composting, burning, and rendering.

Best practices

  • Regularly check for deadstock
  • Unless anthrax is suspected (refer to Appendix 6), remove deadstock as soon as possible from contact with the herd to a deadstock disposal area or temporarily limit access to until disposal
  • Determine the underlying cause of death; If infectious disease is suspected, contact your veterinarian
    • Conduct post-mortem examinations/necropsies as soon as possible following the death of an animal; these can be performed by your veterinarian or completed following protocols provided by them
    • Understand the risks of zoonotic disease and wear appropriate PPE including gloves, protective eyewear and a respirator. Remove PPE and wash hands prior to resuming other duties
  • Dispose of deadstock in a manner that prevents contamination of feed and water sources and that prevents access by animals and pests
  • Recognize the risk of pathogen spread by deadstock service providers due to contact with other farm premises and collection of potentially infected animals
  • If deadstock is picked up by a disposal service, restrict access to the property and ensure the service provider maintains a safe distance from the herd and contact with feed and other materials
  • After using equipment for deadstock disposal, clean and, in some cases, disinfect prior to other uses
  • Inactivate potential disease agents in deadstock through composting or other approved methods
  • Comply with federal, provincial and local regulations concerning deadstock disposal. Deep burial may be acceptable in some provinces with conditions. Refer to Appendix 8 for additional information on acts and regulations

Principle 2: Animal health management practices

Goal: Maximize the health, well-being and productivity of the herd by implementing a herd health program, managing cervid movements and minimizing contact with other animals.

Strategy 2.1: Sourcing cervids

Target outcome

Animals are sourced from suppliers with herds of known health status or the health status of new animals aligns with the resident herd.


New animals pose a significant risk for the introduction of disease to resident cervids and premises. It is important to note that animals may be sub-clinically infected which means they appear healthy yet are carrying a pathogen. Measures can be taken to reduce this risk (e.g. testing for diseases and veterinary health exams prior to arrival), however, some infected animals may not be identified depending on the tests used and/or the stage of infection.

Best practices

  • Consider the use of semen and embryos for introducing new genetics as they pose the lowest risk of introducing pathogens
  • Purchase herd additions from a limited number of suppliers with a known herd health status that is equal to or greater than the resident herd
  • Know the historical health status of the premises from which animals are purchased
  • When purchasing animals at sales or auctions, where the possibility of commingling with animals of lesser or undetermined health status occurs, additional emphasis on biosecurity will need to be placed at the home location
  • Obtain and review health records for all new animals and consider veterinary certification. Ensure there is a known origin, documented history and proper identification for all new animals and genetics

Strategy 2.2: Separate herd additions and returning cervids of undetermined health status from the resident herd (Isolation).

Target outcome

Animals brought onto the farm (herd additions and returning animals) are separated from the resident herd and isolated until their disease status has been determined or is resolved.


Separating animals that are of undetermined health status or known to be ill from the resident herd is an important disease control and prevention strategy referred to as isolation.

Isolation includes preventing direct contact between these animals and the resident herd and minimizing indirect contact with potentially contaminated equipment, clothing, and other materials on the site. During the period of isolation, the health status of the animals is monitored and vaccinations, parasite control and other treatments can be administered to bring the incoming animals to the same health status as the resident herd.

While a permanently designated isolation area is ideal, temporary isolations areas can be created in a pen or pasture in a low traffic location using portable barriers, fencing and gates.

There are a number of factors that influence the length of the isolation period –consult your veterinarian to determine an appropriate length of time. The isolation period normally recommended is longer than the time frame for clinical signs to develop following exposure to the diseases of concern. For many diseases, the isolation period should be at least two to three times the length of the incubation period of the diseases of concern.

When animals are determined to be healthy and/or of equivalent health to the resident herd, they can be released from isolation to join the resident herd.

The stress of segregating animals can create both health and welfare issues. When a lone animal is acquired, a modified isolation whereby a healthy resident animal is placed with the lone animal can reduce the stress of separation. While this increases the risk of disease exposure to one animal, the resident herd is protected, and animal welfare is improved. A compatible animal of the same species should be selected as a herd-mate during this period. Additional considerations for modified isolation must be made during the breeding period.

Best practices

  • Establish requirements and protocols for animal isolation
  • Designate isolation areas for incoming animals. Ensure they are separated from animal shelters, pens and the areas used for the routine care and treatment of the resident herd
  • Isolate new and returning animals until their health status is determined to be equivalent to the resident herd
  • Consider the use of modified isolation. Note: the companion animal must remain in the modified isolation for the full duration
  • Monitor the health status of animals daily and maintain records
  • Assess the risks posed by the new or returning animals (in consultation with your veterinarian) and administer vaccinations and other treatments or diagnostic procedures as necessary
  • For new and returning animals, implement a parasite control and monitoring program to minimize the parasite burden, contamination of housing areas and pastures and subsequent exposure of resident animals
  • Provide care for animals in isolation, including health monitoring, feeding, bedding etc. after caring for the resident herd
  • Dedicate equipment, tools, clothing and footwear to isolation areas or clean and disinfect after use
  • Control access to isolation areas and minimize contact with these animals

Strategy 2.3: Minimize contact with other livestock, domestic animals and pests

Target outcome

Cervid farms are managed to maintain habitat for many desirable species of flora and fauna while minimizing disease risks. Cervids in the resident herd are housed, moved and pastured in such a manner that the risk of contact with other livestock and domestic animals of undetermined health status and pests is minimized. An integrated pest control program should be maintained.


All animals can be a source of pathogens and transmit them within their own populations and to other animal populations. Certain pathogens and pests have the potential to accumulate in the environment and increase the risk of disease in farmed herds.

Contact between different animal populations (domestic or wild) due to inadequate or broken fencing and gates is a significant concern for the transmission of pathogens.

Best practices

While the precise health status of wild cervids surrounding your farm may not be known, information on the occurrence of specific diseases found in your area or province may be available, and could assist in determining the risk posed to your operation. Therefore, farms should be designed to minimize contact and interaction among different animal populations whether they are captive cervids, wild cervids or other wild animals, other livestock species or domestic pets. Before running other livestock species in the same or adjacent pasture as cervids, consult with your veterinarian regarding disease concerns.


  • Enclose the property with clearly visible perimeter fencing capable of preventing the escape of cervids and the entry of domestic and wild animals to the extent practical; comply with applicable regulations
  • Consider enhanced/alternate fencing options in higher risk regions or areas on farms
  • Consider creating a pass-through at access points with a two-gate system to minimize the opportunity of animals escaping
  • Routinely inspect the integrity of fences and gates and repair as needed to prevent commingling
  • Use interior fencing to establish isolation areas, treatment pens, alleyways and corridors for moving and directing animals and people on the property
  • Fence feed and standing water sources to minimize access by pests


  • Keep vegetation mowed short and compost or contain accumulations of manure (when present)
  • Remove attractants for pets, pests, and other domestic animals by securely storing feed and promptly cleaning up feed spills, minimizing pooling water, and securing garbage
  • Remove pest hiding and nesting areas by clearing debris from pastures and pens. Remove unnecessary equipment and materials from animal shelters and equipment storage area

Strategy 2.4: Develop and implement a herd health program

Target outcome

A herd health program is implemented, and serves as the basis for monitoring herd health and proactively identifying and minimizing the risk of disease transmission. The program describes the health regimens and practices used for daily care and disease prevention and control.


Many producers already have established routines and procedures for managing the health of their herds, however, depending on the size and structure of the operation, written protocols may not be present. It is recommended that a herd health program be developed in consultation with a veterinarian or other technical and industry specialists to address the specific needs of the operation. A herd health program provides a consistent approach to manage and achieve high herd health while maintaining a focus on the producer's goals. The use of written documents facilitates consistency, review and training of staff. The herd health program addresses preventive elements such as the provision of high quality food and water, vaccination, parasite control protocols and veterinary care as required. Reactive components of a herd health program address the identification of and response to disease situations.

Best practices

Components of a herd health program should include:

  • Premises identification and individual cervid identification
  • Monitoring health
    • observing and monitoring the health status of the herd. Consider monitoring animal weights throughout the production cycle as body condition scoring can be difficult to assess and requires experience; producers should have and use accurate scale
    • calibrate and maintain scales on a regular schedule to ensure accurate measurements
    • diagnostic testing for assessing health status (e.g. serological testing) and post mortems for unexplained or increased mortality
  • Maintaining animal health
    • vaccination programs to control or prevent disease prior to or after entry of animals to the herd
    • treatment should always be conducted under the consultation and supervision of a veterinarian
    • the proper storage and disposal of veterinary medications and vaccines
    • parasite control programs including pasture management and the use of medication (deworming: the type of product, timing interval, and monitoring by routine testing)
    • use medications as per directions; proper use can reduce opportunities for the development of antimicrobial and anti-parasitic drug resistance
    • review health status and consider pre-purchase testing of prospective herd additions prior to inclusion in the herd
    • consider disease susceptibility/resistance to disease when selecting and maintaining herd genetics and replacements
    • maintain and update herd health records
  • Responding to disease
    • identifying ill health and procedures for response. This may include separation (isolation) of cervids with infectious disease or undetermined disease status (see Strategy 2.5)
    • treatment protocols for common ailments as appropriate. These protocols will include drug withdrawal periods for meat slaughter
    • euthanasia protocols for sick animals and/or when animal welfare is compromised.
  • Management of the herd health plan
    • annual review of the plan including identifying changes in disease status and risk of disease
    • review of goals for animal health and productivity measures, and monitoring of those measures. For example: mortality rates; reproductive measures, growth rates
    • annual staff training and review of recognition of disease (early recognition of changes in physical condition, activity, animal behaviour, knowledge of normal animal health status etc.), and protocols for treating disease, including when to contact the herd veterinarian

Strategy 2.5: Manage and treat sick animals

Target outcome

Animals showing signs of disease may be treated within the herd or moved into an isolation area away from the healthy herd and treated as necessary.


Management of sick animals may include treatment within the herd, separation (isolation) from the herd and treatment as necessary, or euthanized if recovery is unlikely.

Treatment within the herd may be used for certain cervid species and diseases when separation may result in adverse outcomes and the risk of disease spread is believed to be minimal.

Isolation for sick animals involves preventing direct contact between these animals and the healthy herd and minimizing indirect contact from potentially contaminated equipment, clothing, and other materials on the site. During the period of isolation, the health status of the animals is monitored, diagnostic measures may be taken, and appropriate treatments can be implemented.

There are a number of factors that influence the length of the isolation period –consult your veterinarian to determine an appropriate time period. The objective of isolation is to achieve both a resolution of clinical illness and to minimize the potential for disease transmission. When the animal is deemed to no longer pose a health risk and/or is of equivalent health status, it can return to the general population.

The stress of segregating animals can create health and welfare issues; considerations for this must be taken into account. When a lone animal has been identified as being sick, a modified isolation whereby a healthy or resident animal is placed with the lone animal can reduce the stress of separation. While this increases the risk of disease exposure to one animal, the resident herd is protected, and animal welfare is improved. A compatible animal should be selected as a pen mate. Additional considerations for modified isolations must be made during the rutting period.

Sick animals may be an indication of a larger herd health issue.

Best practices

  • Monitor the health status of animals daily and maintain records
  • Identify and treat sick animals
  • Establish requirements and protocols for animal treatment including isolation
  • If an isolation area is used:
    • ensure it is separated from animal shelter areas, pens and the areas used by staff for the routine care and treatment of the resident herd
    • upon the detection of a sick animal, isolate until their health status is determined to be equivalent to the resident herd
    • consider the use of modified isolations; note: the sick and companion animal must remain in isolation until their health is determined and they do not pose a risk to the herd
    • treat and manage animals in isolation by scheduling the care and handling of these animals after caring and handling the general herd
  • Clean and disinfect equipment and tools following use with isolated animals or dedicate equipment and tools to their care
  • Apply personal hygiene measures as appropriate to both protect yourself and prevent transmission out of isolation
    • This may include:
      • the use of dedicated clothing and footwear or clothing changes and cleaning and disinfection of footwear
      • gloves
      • hand sanitizer or washing hands
      • when there is the risk of zoonotic disease, other biosecurity measures may be required (see Strategy 3.4)

Strategy 2.6: Develop a response plan for disease outbreaks

Target outcome

A disease response plan is developed and implemented to guide response activities when disease is suspected, identified or there is deterioration in health status. The plan should identify triggers for activating the response plan, requirements for enhanced biosecurity and, if warranted, self-imposed whole farm isolation procedures (biocontainment).


The Standard and Guide are focused on prevention of infection –those practices that can be adopted to reduce the risks of disease occurrence in farmed cervids. However, it is important that producers also have a farm-based plan for response to a disease outbreak or the suspicion of an outbreak on their farm or in their region.

A response plan is a pre-determined set of actions and conditions that are enacted when one or more occurrences, called trigger points, are observed. The trigger points are an early warning that a disease may exist. The plan will include:

  • Identification of potential trigger points
  • Initial response actions
  • Additional biosecurity protocols to be initiated under specific circumstances

Best practices

The response plan should be readily accessible.

In developing such a plan, producers will need to identify the types of disease emergencies that may require a response. These "trigger points" may include:

  • An outbreak of a commonly encountered disease that:
    • affects a higher than normal number of animals
    • results in severe clinical signs of disease or reduced productivity
    • is associated with higher than normal mortality rates
    • is presenting in an unusual manner
  • An occurrence of a disease not previously encountered within your operation
  • Any suspicion or confirmation of a reportable/notifiable (provincially or federally) disease on your operation or a neighbouring farm
  • Any suspicion or confirmation of a provincially or federally reportable/notifiable disease on a farm that you have acquired animals from shared equipment or had other contact with

An initial response may include:

  • Observing and recording animal health clinical signs, herd health status and gathering herd health and medical records
  • Contacting a veterinarian to obtain a diagnosis and treatment plan
  • Notifying staff and family members of the health situation
  • Following the advice of your veterinarian, depending on the disease suspected or identified, there may be a need to notify a broader group (cervid producers, neighbours, service providers, government)
  • Temporarily halting all movements of animals on and off the site and enhancing biosecurity measures. The duration of the movement restrictions will vary depending on the nature of the disease incident

Additional or enhanced biosecurity measures may include:

  • Isolating affected animals from the resident herd
  • Restricting access to the isolated animals
  • Caring for isolated animals last, after tending to all other animals
  • Dedicating equipment and staff to care of isolated animals, or
  • Cleaning and disinfecting equipment and changing outer clothes, cleaning and disinfecting hands and footwear prior to contact with other animals
  • Identifying other potentially exposed animals
  • Increasing the frequency of animal health monitoring as appropriate
  • Halting the movement of all equipment, materials and people on and off the site until a tentative diagnosis and instructions have been obtained from a veterinarian

Principle 3: Management of people

Goal: Minimize the potential risk posed by all farm visitors and farm personnel, through the establishment of protocols, training and communication.

Strategy 3.1: Train farm workers in biosecurity

Target outcome

All farm workers and family members are trained in and consistently implement the farm's biosecurity practices. The farm biosecurity protocol is communicated to visitors and service providers and they comply with it.


The success of biosecurity plans requires the involvement and cooperation of family members and farm workers. They all need to understand and be regularly trained in the specific biosecurity protocols that guide their activities on the farm.

Farm service providers need to be informed of the practices established for the farms they service, both to ensure that they can carry them out and so that they can accommodate them within their own operational and biosecurity practices.

Best practices

  • Ensure staff are trained in the biosecurity practices of your farm. This may include one-on-one training, group sessions and on-the-job demonstrations
  • Ensure staff are trained and knowledgeable in the behaviour, care and handling of cervid species
  • Recommended that newcomers to the cervid industry work with an experienced producer or receive training on cervid handling
  • Staff are trained to recognize sick animals and procedures for notifying producers/farm managers of concerns
  • Consider obtaining information and assistance from subject specialists (veterinarians and university extension personnel) and other sources (internet)

Strategy 3.2: Determine the risks posed by people

Target outcome

The potential risks posed by visitors and farm personnel for disease transmission are determined.


The movements of people can spread pathogens onto, within and off of your farm. Clothing, footwear and skin that may be contaminated with pathogens and pests can pose a risk to livestock. It is recommended that producers consider the potential risk of all people entering the farm –family members, farm workers, service providers and visitors –and implement measures to manage the risks.

The potential risk posed by people can be determined by considering:

  • Which pathogens/pests they may be carrying –consider previous livestock and farm contact and the biosecurity practices employed
  • Opportunities for pathogen transmission to cervids on your farm –consider the area of the farm they will be accessing, particularly contact with animals

People with recent livestock contact that will be coming into direct contact with animals pose a higher risk than those without recent livestock contact who will not be coming into contact with the animals. This may include livestock transport drivers and drivers delivering agricultural supplies.

Best practices

  • Determine the purpose of their visit and areas of the property they need to access, particularly the degree of contact with animals (domestic and wild)
  • Determine what equipment or supplies people may be bringing onto the farm
  • Determine recent contact with livestock, agricultural premises, or any other circumstance that may pose a biosecurity risk. The level of biosecurity required is partially dependent on previous contacts
  • Considerations should include clothing changes, dedicated footwear or cleaned and disinfected footwear and hand washing prior to entry or contact with animals

In general, these groups could be described as follows:

  • Low risk: travel to a farm without previous farm contact; do not come in direct contact with livestock and do not enter livestock rearing areas; for example, urban visitors, sales representatives
  • Moderate risk: travel from farm to farm but do not directly contact the livestock; for example, feed and fuel delivery
  • High risk: neighbouring producers or anyone who travels farm to farm and comes in direct contact with livestock and have been in contact with livestock from other farms (e.g. veterinarians, technicians). Foreign visitors and travellers returning from a foreign country pose a potential higher risk
  • A Higher risk classification can be considered for anyone who has been in contact with cervids on another farm (auction or assembly yard), or in another country, in contaminated facilities or near sick animals. If access to another herd is required, specific risk-reduction steps should be taken

Figure 2: Assessing risks posed by people

The figure illustrates factors that can be used to determine the risk levels posed by people to a farm premises. Previous contact with farms and livestock and subsequent contact with cervids pose a higher biosecurity risk.
Figure 2 – Assessing risks posed by people. Description follows.
Description of Figure 2 – Assessing risks posed by people

Figure 2 illustrates factors that can be used to determine the risk levels posed by people to a farm premises. On one dimension in the matrix are the risks posed by where people have come from and on the other dimension of the matrix are the risks posed by where people will go on the farm. Those who have been on a farm before arriving, and whether they have interacted directly with livestock contribute to their risk of bringing pathogens with them. On the second dimension, on entry to the farm, they will either have no animal contact or come into contact with animals. Contact with animals requires additional biosecurity measures due to increased risk.

Strategy 3.3: Develop and implement risk management practices for all people entering the farm

Target outcome

People working on, providing service to or visiting the farm are guided by defined risk management practices.


The biosecurity practices implemented for and by visitors, including service providers, is determined by producers. These practices need to be communicated to visitors. Some visitors and service providers are "biosecurity aware" but many are not. Discuss biosecurity expectations and requirements with visitors prior to their arrival and again on arrival. Accompany visitors to ensure biosecurity requirements are implemented appropriately.

All people entering the farm should be aware of the risk of their visit and activities while there. They should know and understand the biosecurity practices that are consistent with that risk determination, including the areas into which they are permitted to go.

The risk of each individual, based on where he/she is permitted to go on the farm, will determine the biosecurity practices that will be needed upon entry onto the farm and into the production area.

For people who are identified to be of high risk, those who have recently been on a farm and who have contacted other animals that are or may be diseased, the following practices can be used:

  • Impose a minimum waiting period for visitors prior to arriving at the farm. CFIA currently recommends a period of 5 days for foreign visitors
  • Request visitors shower and clean and disinfect clothing and tools/equipment they need to bring to your farm before their arrival
  • Restrict/minimize contact with the herd

Best practices

  • Discuss with visitors their movement and contact history, and communicate your biosecurity precautions prior to their arrival; keep a visitor log
  • Schedule visits to ensure qualified staff are available to manage access, reiterate biosecurity precautions, confirm any pre-arrival arrangements (e.g. vehicle washing, clothing changes scheduling of previous sites visited) and escort visitors
  • Implement a combination of restrictions to access, and the requirement for cleanliness (footwear, clothing, clean hands and personal care) as the basic arsenal for visitors and service providers
  • Apply a higher level of biosecurity for anyone approaching and/or in direct contact with (touching/handling) the animals, and higher again for those approaching and/or in direct contact with isolated or sick animals
  • Consider the risks posed by foreign visitors/returning travellers, especially those who have had potential contact with livestock and other animals (domestic or wild)
  • Pre-determined practices/protocols can be designed that apply to each of these classes of risk

Signs and information can be situated at boundaries, on building and pen entries and on special-risk pens to advise visitors what their limits to access are, and when to apply the higher-level practices

  • Escort visitors to help ensure that they are following the recommended biosecurity practices

Strategy 3.4: Manage zoonotic disease risks

Target outcome

Family members, farm workers, visitors and service providers understand the risks posed by zoonotic diseases and take precautions to protect themselves, other people and animals.


All livestock may carry pathogens/pests that can be transmitted to, and cause disease in humans. Some of these pathogens/pests may not cause clinical disease in the animals themselves. The risk of such transmission must be communicated to family, staff, and visitors and arrangements made for providing the biosecurity measures, practices and precautions including the necessary equipment.

Some zoonotic diseases are classified as reportable and/or notifiable at the federal or provincial level, and the relevant authorities must be informed.

Note: Animal/human disease transmission is not just one way; human diseases may also be transmitted to animals. Examples of zoonotic diseases include salmonellosis, brucellosis, tuberculosis, leptospirosis, and dermatophytosis.

Best practices

  • Advise family, staff and visitors of the potential risks of handling live animals, deadstock, manure and other materials
  • Provide opportunities for handwashing
  • Wear personal protective clothing such as gloves, coveralls, boots and masks as appropriate this includes during routine handling of animals
  • Advise relevant authorities if a reportable/notifiable disease is suspected
  • Consult a physician/veterinarian for advice

Principle 4: Protocols and record-keeping

Goal: Establish protocols and maintain records to facilitate managing, improving and validating the biosecurity program, and health status of the herd.

Strategy 4.1: Protocols for animal health and farm management practices

Target outcome

Important biosecurity protocols are readily available to staff, family and service providers as needed, to facilitate reference, training, review and consistent implementation.


Biosecurity protocols allow for ready reference and periodic review, facilitate training, and help ensure consistency of application. Biosecurity protocols should be updated when there are changes in procedures. Documents should be readily accessible by staff.

Best practices

  • It is recommended that written farm specific protocols be developed for important biosecurity activities:
  • Written protocols should include, but may not be limited to:
    • biosecurity plan, including farm map
    • herd health plan
    • farm management protocols
    • emergency farm management plan (Refer to Appendix 16 for a sample template).
  • Both hardcopies and electronic copies can be beneficial
  • Protocols should be readily available
  • If changes are made to protocols, ensure all copies are amended
  • Documents should indicate both the date produced and the author

Refer to Section 2.4 on Herd Health and Appendix 15 and Appendix 16 for additional information on records and protocols.

Strategy 4.2: Herd and individual animal health records 

Target outcome

Herd health and individual animal health records are maintained and reviewed to ensure optimum health and productivity of the herd.


Animal health records provide more accurate data and enhance the ability to identify disease trends, review previous health issues, and determine the success/failure of treatments within the herd health programs. Records of health events and diagnostic test results are used to initiate interventions and changes to the herd health program, and are important to support herd health status when purchasing or selling animals.

Best practices

  • Maintain herd health records including morbidity and mortality, and management practices such as vaccinations, parasite treatments and herd health testing
  • Maintain health records for individual animals including illnesses, diagnostic tests, diagnoses and treatments. Treatment records should include treatment date, type of medication, dose, prescribing veterinarian, route of administration and withdrawal time if applicable
  • Ensure animals are uniquely identified and records of animal movements (purchases and sales) and health can be linked to each animal
  • For some types of operations, maintain records of birth and weaning weights, carcass yield and antler harvest. To maintain and monitor animal health, consider obtaining pre-rut weight, mid-winter weight, during artificial insemination procedures and any opportunity to monitor weight when handling animals

Strategy 4.3: Farm management records

Target outcome

Records of farm management activities, including biosecurity measures, are maintained and reviewed.


Important farm management activities should be recorded. Farm records assist in managing the day-to-day activities on the farm (including the details of specific tasks, who was assigned the task and if the task was completed), as well as help to inform management decisions.

Best practices

Maintain and review the following farm management records:

  • When cleaning and disinfection of the facility, equipment and other items was performed and how it was conducted including location and the type of disinfectant used
  • Livestock and pest control activities
  • Deadstock disposal
  • Manure collection (where applicable)
  • Feed and supplement purchases
  • Other biosecurity practices on the farm such as visitor access (i.e. visitor logs) and biosecurity breaches
  • Consider the use of data/record management software to facilitate collection and analysis of farm data

Ongoing analysis of these records allows producers to determine whether all required biosecurity activities are being followed and whether there are gaps to address. In addition, biosecurity records and animal health records can be reviewed together to understand whether biosecurity practices have contributed to changes in animal health on the farm.

Refer to the Appendices for sample biosecurity templates.

Strategy 4.4: Education and training activities

Target outcome

Records of education and training of farm workers are maintained and reviewed to ensure they have the requisite knowledge and skills to successfully conduct their duties.


Records of education and training assist in ensuring staff have the appropriate current knowledge to conduct the farm biosecurity practices.

Best practices

  • Record and review education and training activities for all persons working on the farm
  • Review farm worker education and training records following changes in procedures and when there are changes in the health status of the herd to determine if knowledge and training may have contributed to the change
  • Obtain education and training materials from industry, breed associations and universities
  • Resources for producers include the Elk Farming Handbook which is available online, and the Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Farmed Deer (Cervidae)
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