Building biosecurity into our definition of ‘ranchlife’

Cattle crowd around a dugout in Alberta. | Photo by Debra Murphy

From checking-in all visitors to showering-in/showering-out of production facilities, for many livestock operators, strict biosecurity protocols are top of mind. For the rest of us, even asking visitors about their recent travels seems unnecessary, and, perhaps, like an invasion of trust.

But doing all we can to protect our animals from the introduction and/or spread of disease is far from unnecessary. And, any visitor who cares at all about animal agriculture, and our operations in particular, should not hesitate to share their latest adventure stories, and — if necessary — do the clean-up required to prevent any trouble from arising.

Verified Beef Production Plus Officially Launched

For producers involved in Verified Beef Production Plus (VBP+), biosecurity is part of the program’s “must-do” requirements. The specifics outlined under VBP+ include (as written):

  1. Cattle are not exposed to raw human sewage pump out or sewage storage/lagoons. Access is protected from cattle.
  2. Persons visiting or returning from international travel in rural areas with livestock take precautions, including complete clothing/footwear change and cleaning or disinfecting materials before entry back to cattle operation.
  3. A record on animal health treatment, vaccinations and deaths/euthanized cattle must be kept.
  4. Livestock Managers know who to contact in case of a disease emergency.

Melissa Downing, provincial coordinator for VBP+, talks biosecurity with RealAgriculture’s Debra Murphy, at BeefTech in Edmonton, AB.

The program also offers other ideas to manage against disease transfer, including segregating incoming cattle for a period of time before introducing them to the herd; purchasing from herds with known animal health statuses; keeping a record of purchases and sales; using single-use needles for sick/suspect animals; having separate footwear/outerwear for the auction mart and vet clinic (or disinfecting upon return to the operation).

Check out the Canadian Beef Cattle On-Farm Biosecurity Standard

As infectious disease outbreaks continue to occur around the world, and increasingly, in our own country, perhaps it’s time for all of us to sit down and formulate a written biosecurity protocol for our operation, cow/calf or otherwise. Perhaps it’s time we accepted biosecurity as part of ‘ranchlife’.


On-ranch biosecurity — There’s no easy way out
Necropsies under-utilized in cow/calf production, say professors
Beef Research School – Managing biosecurity with beef cattle
The disappointment of declaring farm visits through Canadian customs
Why We Can’t Afford to Walk Away from BSE Testing

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