Biosecurity for Cow/Calf Operation

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Biosecurity is becoming increasingly important to the Cow/Calf sector, which raises calves for the beef industry. Cow/Calf operations provide the foundation for a growing industry that supplies Canadians and international markets with high-quality genetics, meat products and meat by-products.

Bovine diseases

The global emergence and re-emergence of bovine diseases in recent years has had a major impact on the cattle industry, both within Canada and abroad.

Outbreaks of contagious diseases such as Foot and Mouth Disease in other countries have resulted in significant economic losses for the cattle industry, and have created animal health and environmental concerns. These kinds of incidents emphasize the need for a comprehensive, coordinated approach to bovine biosecurity.

Led by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), federal, provincial and territorial governments are continuously collaborating with industry to implement and augment bovine biosecurity programs aimed at reducing disease transmission and protecting the interests of Canadians.

Sources of bovine diseases

Bovine diseases can be spread in a number of ways, including:

  • through diseased cattle or healthy cattle incubating disease;
  • through animals other than cattle (farm animals, pets, wild birds and other wildlife, vermin and insects);
  • on the clothing and footwear of people moving between farm sites and pens;
  • in contaminated feed, water, bedding and soil;
  • from the carcasses of dead animals;
  • on contaminated farm equipment and vehicles; and
  • in airborne particles and dust blown by the wind.

Biosecurity principles for cow/calf operations

An effective biosecurity program must address the following:

  • isolation of new animals brought to the farm;
  • isolation of sick animals;
  • movement control of people, animals and equipment;
  • and procedures for cleaning and disinfecting facilities.

Bringing new animals to the farm is usually the greatest risk of introducing infectious disease. Producers must develop a program that is most appropriate for their operation. A herd health and biosecurity program should be created and implemented with the help of a qualified veterinarian.

Components of a biosecurity program

  • Isolation:
    • Minimizing the risk associated with contact between animals
    • Maintain a closed herd - raise resident calves for replacement animals and use a resident bull for breeding.
    • If a closed herd is not maintained, obtain new stock from reputable sources.
    • If introducing new animals or returning cattle from livestock shows or fairs, isolate them from the remainder of the herd until their health status is known.
    • Prevent contact with non resident animals - pasture cows, calves and bulls on your own land away from neighbouring herds and livestock.
    • Isolate sick animals from the rest of the herd.
  • Sanitation:
    • Protect supplementary feed and water sources for pastured cattle from contamination.
    • Routinely clean and disinfect buildings, barns, pens, equipment, clothing and footwear.
    • Designate a cleaning area for vehicles and equipment.
    • Promptly dispose of deadstock.
    • Frequently remove manure from calving pens and holding pens.
    • Avoid borrowing equipment and vehicles from other farms.
  • Traffic control:
    • Control visitors' access to the herd.
    • Minimize herd contact with birds, rodents, pets and other animals.
    • Require all visitors to wear clean boots, clothing and gloves.
    • Maintain records of the movement of people, animals and equipment on and off the premises.
    • Make sure all suppliers and other site visitors follow your biosecurity measures
  • Herd health management:
    • Monitor herd health daily.
    • Uniquely identify all animals for traceability.
    • Employ veterinary services to help implement herd health programs.
    • Vaccinate cows and calves against certain diseases.
    • Avoid multi-dose medication vials and syringes for treating animals.
    • Immediately report any signs of illness to your veterinarian
  • Program maintenance:
    • Train all staff in the application of your biosecurity program.
    • Regularly monitor the effectiveness of the program.
    • Be aware of any diseases in your area and adjust your biosecurity program to meet specific needs, as required.
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