Canada-wide cattle biosecurity standard ready to roll

Just in time for Christmas, the Beef Cattle On-Farm Biosecurity Standard is complete and available online for that hard-to-please bovine on your gift list.

And if all goes to plan, an owner’s version should by ready by then, too.

"The standard has been published. We’re still working on a producer’s manual that will be an aid for producers to implement," said Rob McNabb, general manager of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (CCA).

Biosecurity is a standardized protocol for reducing the risk of contracting and spreading diseases, pests, and invasive species, and it’s an increasingly important facet of livestock production. Avian influenza prompted industry and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to create the nation’s first sector-specific biosecurity protocol, but all other sectors have since initiated the process, such as sheep, goat, dairy, mink and bees.

CFIA is currently reviewing a user-friendly producer’s guide which is expected to be available in the near future, said McNabb.

The CCA worked with CFIA to develop the protocol and will help launch the initiative, but once that’s complete, the provinces will have to take the baton.

"The responsibility for implementing biosecurity will be at the provincial level," he said, adding Manitoba, for one, was so gung-ho about the idea it created its own user guide rather than waiting.

"Our main commitment was to provide the education and awareness tools that producers can use and then who knows, the future could be that we incorporate it into our On-Farm Food Safety infrastructure."

The protocol isn’t mandatory, but McNabb expects good buy-in.

"We think it will be another attribute we can add to the Canadian Beef Advantage if we get that critical mass of production under that," he said.

Among the practices being recommended are segregation of cattle coming back from community pastures or from other ranches, and keeping an on-farm visitors’ log.

In many cases, the protocol will merely formalize what producers have been doing for decades.

"The original process involved an extensive survey of producers and I think what we found is that a lot of these practices are just everyday good management and, for the most part, are being observed or implemented without a lot of second thought," said McNabb. "But now there’s an opportunity to document it or perhaps kick it up a notch."

The biosecurity standard can be found online and the producer guide should be available by year’s end.

– A version of this article appeared in the Nov. 5, 2012 edition of Alberta Farmer.