Biosecurity on the Farm a Must for Prairie Farmers

Funding available for farmers establishing biosecurity measures in Manitoba

Biosecurity is a hot topic for Manitoba poultry, beef and swine farmers these days with periodic reports of disease spreading between animals, farms and countries.

A farmer’s best defence against the devastating impact of a disease outbreak is to set up solid biosecurity measures in advance. Limiting who and what comes in contact with their animals is every farmer’s responsibility and the responsibility of everyone who visits the property.

Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Development (MAFRD) Extension Veterinarian Dr. Wayne Tomlinson says the most dangerous source of virus or bacteria to a group of animals is another animal of the same species. The next biggest risk is the transference of animal fluids – such as manure or saliva –from farm to farm through contaminated clothing, insects, equipment or other items.

High biosecurity standards keep animals healthy, costs down and production up. They also provide farmers with access to markets that require high levels of safety procedures.

Farmers need to be vigilant at all times. For example, beef producers need to take care when introducing a new calf to their herd. Though the calf may have seemed healthy at the time of purchase, it could be carrying a disease that can infect all the other calves on the farm or ranch. Quarantining new animals and being careful which ones are introduced to the farm goes a long way in mitigating risk. It is good practice to only accept animals from environments that have equal or higher biosecurity measures than those you implement on your farm.

Taking shortcuts instead of following proper biosecurity protocols can cause major problems for farmers, says Robyn Harte, business development – swine, with MAFRD.

“The big focus really should be on consistency and paying attention to the little things,” said Harte. “It most likely won’t be a big error that will bring your farm down. It’s the small things – the inconsistencies - that will most likely cause you to bring in a disease.”

Harte said in the future she believes the industry is heading toward more sophistication in biosecurity including groups of farmers banding together to create regional programs.

It is much harder to get rid of a disease or pest that has entered a farm than it is to keep it out entirely. Working together with others in your region is a good practice. When everyone is educated about the risks, it is easier to implement preventive measures.

According to Tomlinson, the biggest hindrances to farmers implementing biosecurity measures are cost and knowledge.

“We are sometimes naïve,” he said. “We get complacent and maybe we don’t realize that a virus can live in feed, or we have bought calves 10 times from the auction and nothing has happened so we think it’s safe.”

There is also the perception that biosecurity costs a lot of money to implement but that is not necessarily the case. Some measures are only a matter of restricting who visits your animals or organizing your farm differently to reduce risk.

Funding Available

Farmers who wish to explore how increased biosecurity measures could make a difference for them, should inquire about the funding available for establishing biosecurity on their farm through the Growing Assurance program. The program is available through Growing Forward 2, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative. It includes funding for things such as quarantine pens, cleaning or disinfecting stations, animal transplant planning, sanitation equipment, entry design, pest control, air filtration and more.

To find out more about what funding is available and what projects are eligible, visit the Growing Assurance program page.

Must have biosecurity measures for your farm:

  • Only allow equipment on your farm that has been on farms with equal or higher biosecurity standards and equal or higher animal health standards
  • Park your vehicles in designated areas away from your animals
  • Make sure you clean your clothes and vehicles properly when visiting and leaving a farm and have visitors to your farm do the same
  • Control rodents and pests, and do all you can to keep them away from feed bins
  • Clean and disinfect your equipment often
  • Isolate new animals to your farm and watch them for signs of disease