Prepared by Lois Harris for Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association

 Guelph – Having good on-farm biosecurity is one of the best ways to prevent a disease outbreak on your livestock operation. Assessing the ways viruses, bacteria and other threats can get into, move around and leave your farm is a wise first step to securing your future.

“Biosecurity minimizes the transmission of disease-causing organisms in animal populations, including their introduction, spread and release,” says Dr. Paula Menzies, Professor, Department of Population Medicine and Member of the Ruminant Health Management Group at the University of Guelph. “It is proactive and focuses on routine, day-to-day on-farm activities to protect the health of the herd or flock.”

Why biosecurity is importantB Robinson - livestock assessment 1MB

 An on-farm disease outbreak could affect not only you, but also your neighbours, your industry and potentially the country. That’s why the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, working with the provinces, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and industry stakeholders, has developed national biosecurity standards and producer planning guides for different livestock commodities. These standards are voluntary, although some livestock industry associations will be making their standards mandatory.

The Dairy Farmers of Canada, for example, has a comprehensive initiative called proAction that governs milk quality and safety, animal health (including biosecurity), welfare and environmental sustainability. This program will be rolled out with producer guides and training in the coming months and years.

Many of the standards contain checklists, which can help producers take stock of where they are most vulnerable. You can check with your industry association to find the requirements for your livestock. It’s good practice to work with your veterinarian on both the assessment and the best ways to fill any gaps you find.


Here’s what can happen with a disease outbreak:

  • Lower productivity and income
  • Lower prices for animals
  • Sicker animals meaning higher vet bills and labour costs
  • Lower demand in the domestic market
  • Closed export markets
  • Potential for family and staff to get sick.

 Where do diseases come from?

Infectious diseases can come from many different sources, which is why assessing your whole farm is critical to developing a good biosecurity plan. They can come from viruses, parasites, fungi or bacteria, and are transmitted in many different ways – by people, animals, equipment or vehicles. They can be in the manure stuck to boots or tires, or on the clothing of people who have come from another farm. They can be transmitted in the water, or spread from a dead animal that hasn’t been properly disposed of.

What you can do: assess, plan, implement

An honest, step-by-step assessment of the biosecurity risks on your property helps you identify areas that you may not have considered. Enlisting the help of your veterinarian will ensure you don’t miss anything, and can make the job of prioritizing the importance of changes you may need to implement easier. The areas of concern vary somewhat depending on the type of livestock, but, according to Dr. Menzies, generally fall into six categories:

  • Sourcing and introducing animals:
    • Do you source from reputable sellers that have good health records?
    • Can you isolate and confirm the health of new animals or ones that come back from shows?
  • Animal health:
    • Do you have up-to-date treatment and vaccination records?
    • Do you store feed in a place where other animals can’t get it?
    • Do you have an emergency response plan, in case of adverse weather, loss of electricity or a disease outbreak?
  • Facility management and access controls:
    • Have you identified controlled and restricted access zones (CAZ and RAZ) on your farm that require different protocols for entering?
    • Have you mapped out how animals move onto, around and off your farm so you can identify points where disease could enter?
    • Do you have good cleaning and disinfecting protocols?
    • How do you manage manure and deadstock?
  • Movement of people, vehicles and equipment:
    • Do your family and workers know and follow biosecurity protocols, including hand washing, disinfecting footwear or changing to clean ‘barn’ boots?
    • Do you prevent all vehicles from driving in areas where animals may move through?
    • Do you make sure that the feed and water you give to your animals is safe, clean and disease-free?
  • Monitoring and record-keeping:
    • Do you have up-to-date herd health records and Standard Operating Procedures?
  • Communication and training:
    • Do you have biosecurity signs on your property telling people whom to contact to enter the farm?
    • Do you have written protocols with instructions on how to use them?
    • Do you and your staff/family take biosecurity training and refresher courses?

These are only a few of the things you may need to consider for your own operation. Every farmer will have different answers. The important thing is to think about, and respond to, the questions.

Once the assessment’s done, you can look at the gaps and figure out what needs fixing first, second and third. By prioritizing your needs you can make changes in a logical, cost-effective and efficient way.

The assessment also goes a long way to helping you complete your biosecurity plan, and once the plan is in place, you’re ready to implement it.

Growing Forward 2 is here to helpOSCIA livestock biosecurity assessments August, 2015-2

Farmers and growers in Ontario are encouraged to take free biosecurity workshops from the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association to learn the ins and outs of the process.

Growing Forward 2 (GF2) funding is available for completing an assessment. Producers who take the workshop and complete an assessment, with their highest priority projects clearly identified, are in a better position to receive up to 35 per cent cost-share funding that’s also available to complete certain physical improvements related to biosecurity.

There is one more GF2 intake for producers for the current program year, and three intakes for Program Year 4 (for projects after April 1, 2016):

  • November 16, 2015 to December 3, 2015
  • February 5, 2016 to February 25, 2016
  • June 17, 2016 to July 7, 2016
  • October 14, 2016 to November 3, 2016.


For further information, contact:

John Laidlaw, 519-826-4218,

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