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Beefed Biosecurity Standards Nearly In Place

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Canada s livestock industry is closing in on its goal of having a complete biosecurity regiment.

While only the poultry sector has finished setting its biosecurity standards, the beef sector expects to complete the process by December, with dairy, mink and bees following in 2012 and sheep and goats slated for finalization in winter of 2013.

The sheep sector is just undertaking research work into biosecurity protocol development, beginning with a national producer survey.

It s basically to set a benchmark where we are currently as an industry in terms of biosecurity, said Jennifer MacTavish, executive director of the Canadian Sheep Federation.

While the language may seem very formal and scientific, biosecurity often means taking commonsense steps that producers have been practising for decades to reduce the risk of contracting and transmitting anything biologically harmful, including diseases, pests and invasive species.

That s our assumption, but part of the reason why we want to talk to producers is to see if that matches up with what is actually happening on farm. It s a bit of a gap analysis and focusing a lot on production-limiting diseases, said MacTavish.

While avian influenza, BSE and foot-and-mouth disease generate headlines, those sorts of devastating outbreaks aren t the only reason for improved biosecurity, she said.

One of the things that we want to make clear is we re not just talking about the big diseases like foot-and- mouth disease, said MacTavish. We are looking at what we can do on farm to help with production- limiting diseases that could be managed or perhaps mitigated through biosecurity, and to make it more practical every day for the producers instead of this ominous one day we might get foot-and-mouth disease.

None of the biosecurity protocols in any of the livestock sectors will be mandatory.

It s not something we re going to be forcing on producers, but it is something that we re going to let them know is out there as a tool if they are interested in seeing what more they could do on their farm, MacTavish said.

The federation is looking for 22 sheep producers from Alberta to participate in the study, which will collect data by phone or through on-farm interviews.

While the sheep sector is just getting started, Canada s cattle industry has almost completed the process.

We ve been working at it a couple of years now and it has gone through a number of development stages, including an assessment of what the current practices out on the farm and ranch and feedlots are now, said Rob McNabb, general manager of operations for the Canadian Cattlemen s Association.

As well, we brought in experts in the field of animal biosecurity, and animal health, ensuring that between those two that we captured the appropriate principles and practices.

The CCA and provincial associations will agree upon the final product, and it will then be rolled out nationally, but with each province leading the charge in its own jurisdiction, he said.

A lot of it is fairly common sense, McNabb said. It is fairly everyday practices that producers currently undertake and what we have done is on a national level, we ve established a standard in collaboration with the CFIA office of animal biosecurity.

Those practices include segregation of cattle from other ranches or when coming back from community pastures, and keeping an on-farm visitors log.

It doesn t mean you re erecting an electric fence around the property, but you want to make sure that anybody coming on to the operation is aware that you have biosecurity practices in place and they just can t come in and wander around willy-nilly, said McNabb.

We re not talking about trying to fix a wreck here. We re talking about enhancing our ability to further improve our animal health status as a country which for beef cattle isn t in bad shape now.

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We renottalkingabouttryingtofixawreckhere.We retalkingaboutenhancingourabilitytofurtherimproveouranimalhealthstatus.

Rob McNabb

CCA

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