No one wants an infectious animal disease outbreak on their farm — but every producer should be ready for one, says an expert on biocontainment plans.
“When we get into crisis mode, we tend to forget the important steps and communications pieces that need to be there — by having it all documented ahead of time, we found that there was a lot more reassurance for producers,” Heather Carriere said during a recent Alberta Pork telephone town hall.
Having an emergency to-do list would benefit any livestock producer, said the Abbotsford, B.C. ag consultant, who helped develop biocontainment plans for BC Pork in response to the porcine epidemic diarrhea threat.
“It’s a document that can save a lot of angst and speeds up the response process as well,” said Carriere. “The idea was to create an information package so in the case of emergency, they don’t have to go searching for all that information.”
The value of a biocontainment plan becomes evident when you start listing everything that needs to be done: Contacting processors, plant contacts, tradespeople, suppliers, and anyone who might be coming to the farm. A checklist of things to do before or during deliveries. Different ways to isolate sick animals from the main barn. Managing a break in production. Who will handle pickup of deadstock, garbage, recycling, and manure. Alternative transportation routes in order to avoid contaminating other nearby hog farms.
“By having these things written down ahead of time, it saves the producer from having to search when they are busy with other aspects of traceback or the biosecurity measures that they are implementing,” said Carriere. “By identifying every single possible contact who could come onto their farm, it gave producers peace of mind that they did have due diligence and were doing their best to be prepared.”
B.C. pork producers either worked with Carriere or their herd veterinarian to ensure the plan was complete. A copy was kept in a place where it could be accessed by all farm employees — a key measure because workers need to make decisions and take immediate action, even if the farm owner happens to be away.
As part of the biocontainment plan, producers signed a statement that said that they would inform BC Pork and their vet of their disease status and allow them to share the information with all necessary industry partners.
“This assists in the traceback processes that have to happen,” said Carriere. “They’ll only identify the farm to necessary industry partners. It’s not meant for general broadcasting and is not publicized anywhere. It’s mainly for traceback purposes to help minimize the spread of any virus.”
Once the herd vet had reviewed and signed off on the plan, it was then signed by the producer and BC Pork. All of the signatories were given copies of the plan.
Not only did creating the plan give producers a sense of what they would do at their farm, it also reaffirmed their role in keeping the entire industry safe and gave them ownership for the biosecurity of the entire province, said Carriere.