Biosecurity for Feedlots

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The Canadian feedlot sector produces more than half the cattle from the leading fed-cattle provinces, and is evolving towards larger, specialized, more mechanized operations. Biosecurity is essential on feedlots, where animals originating from a variety of farms are raised together in single locations. This increases the risk of disease transmission.

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 cattle in other countries have resulted in significant economic losses for cattle industries, as well as 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 and the public 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 cattle carrying disease;
  • through animals other than cattle (farm animals, pets, wild birds and other wildlife, vermin and insects);
  • on the clothing and shoes of visitors and employees moving from site-to-site;
  • in contaminated feed, water, bedding and soil;
  • from the carcasses of dead animals;
  • on contaminated farm equipment and vehicles; or
  • in airborne particles and dust blown by the wind.

Biosecurity principles for feedlots

Some of the basic biosecurity principles for the feedlot sector include:

  • Isolation:
    • Only receive animals from reputable sources.
    • Limit the frequency of introducing new animals to the herd.
    • Move cattle through the pens using an all-in-all-out approach.
    • Provide maximum pen space to avoid overcrowding and unnecessary stress.
    • Protect feed and water sources from contamination.
    • Isolate sick animals from the rest of the herd.
    • Prevent nose-to-nose contact between animals in different pens by using double fencing or alleyways.
    • Separate feed and water troughs between different pens.
  • Sanitation:
    • Routinely clean and disinfect buildings, barns, equipment, clothing and footwear.
    • Designate equipment for clean jobs (feeding) and dirty jobs (manure handling and carcass disposal).
    • Designate a cleaning area for vehicles and equipment.
    • Promptly dispose of dead cattle.
    • Implement a manure management program.
    • Avoid borrowing equipment and vehicles from other farms or feedlots.
  • Traffic control:
    • Control visitors' access to the site.
    • Prevent birds, rodents, pets and other animals from coming into contact with the herd.
    • Require all visitors to wear clean boots, clothing and gloves.
    • Maintain records of the movement of people, animals and equipment onto and off of the premises.
    • Handle younger animals before older animals and healthy animals before sick or incoming animals.
    • Make sure all suppliers and other site visitors follow your biosecurity measures.
  • Herd health management:
    • Monitor herd health daily.
    • Identify all animals with proper ear tags for traceability.
    • Employ veterinary services to help implement herd health programs.
    • Vaccinate cattle against certain diseases.
    • Immediately report any signs of illness to your veterinarian or the nearest CFIA office.
  • 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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