Navigating change: Keeping VBP+ up to date on changes to your operation

Emma Cross

Change is inevitable. But when beef operations make big adjustments, management changes as well. Keeping VBP+ up to date on your operation is key to staying current with the program.

While an audit is a great assessment of an operation, it can only capture a snapshot of the operation in time. Record assessments and self-declarations provide regular points for VBP+ to check in with producers and see what has changed, making sure everything is still on the right track.

It is important to remember that the VBP+ is a five-year audit cycle. The on-farm audit is an important first assessment, but the records assessments and self-declarations are in themselves annual assessments as well as important points to update information. Five years is a long time, it is very possible producers are making operational decisions that make sense during those five years.

Sometimes beef producers make big changes that have equally big impacts on management practices. VBP+ needs your help to know when those changes are made so we can continue to help you be as efficient, accurate, and sustainable as you can be.

One of the biggest changes an operation can make is adding or removing enterprises. As producers know, managing a cow-calf operation is drastically different than a feedlot. Deciding to background or finish your own calves adds additional complexity to your operation, particularly the aspects of management that are highlighted in the VBP+ standard.

Changing enterprises also means changing audit level. The table below outlines the three types of audit that VBP+ offers, which are defined by the production phases that the operation is involved in.

The three audit levels defined by VBP+ differ by production phase, affecting price
The three audit levels defined by VBP+ differ by production phase, affecting price

With more production phases involved in an operation, more time is required by auditors and staff to review records, management practices, and documentation. Therefore, the annual cost of an audit is higher for a more complex audit level. However, by offering a combined audit at a slightly higher cost, the producer does not have to perform the same paperwork, audit, and other tasks for each enterprise they are involved in.

An ideal time to inform the renewals team of a change is when submitting the annual information update. However, if a major change is occurring outside the time frame of your annual renewal event, notifying the VBP+ renewals team as early as possible is the best practice. Ideally, a producer will reach out before a change actually occurs. Advance notice will let the VBP+ team reflect these changes to both maximize potential qualification and minimize disruption to any incentive programming as soon as possible. For renewals team contact information, go to the Contact Us page on our website and scroll down to VBP+ Delivery Services Inc.

Whether informing the renewals team of a change before or after it occurs, producers should provide a brief summary of what the change is. Key details could include major changes in the number of head managed, added or removed enterprises, and additional facilities. After this initial conversation, the renewals team will send the producer an operation change form to gather more details that will inform the next steps.

The required actions following a major change on a certified operation are handled on a case-by-case basis. For example, a producer deciding to finish their own calves using the same facilities and staff will require different actions than a producer purchasing a new facility, designing a new management system, and hiring new staff to finish their own calves. Follow-up actions can range from an enhanced record assessment, a trigger of an on-farm audit, and a brand-new certification starting a new five-year audit cycle.

Above all, VBP+ wants to help producers take advantage of the benefits to certification. Keeping the renewals team up to date on major changes to your operation will ensure that they can keep you accurate and current on your certification status, maintaining your access to program benefits.

Producer part in prevention: Helping mitigate FMD in Canada

Emma Cross

By now, you’ve likely heard of Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD), a disease known for being extremely contagious and extremely severe. In the news right now, FMD strikes panic in the Canadian beef industry. That’s why it’s key that each and every one of us does our part to prevent the introduction of FMD into our Canadian cattle herd.

Fast Facts About FMD

  • Occurs in livestock and wildlife with cloven hooves – cattle, pigs, sheep, goats, bison, elk, deer, wild boars, etc.
  • Many animals recover, but are left in a weak state
  • Found in 77% of the global livestock population – Africa, Middle East, Asia, and some parts of South America
  • Spread by contact with bodily fluids from affected animals, contaminated animal products, food, feed, equipment, clothing, footwear, or hands
  • Can be spread long distances by the airborne virus
  • Humans can carry the virus for up to 36 hours in the throat
  • There is no treatment

Source: Foot and mouth disease | Alberta.ca

Signs of FMD in Cattle

  • Sores and then blisters/ulcers on feet, nose, mouth, udder, scrotum
  • Excessive saliva and drooling
  • Lack of desire to move
  • Fever
  • Low appetite
  • Reduced milk yield
  • Loss of body condition
  • Occasional abortions

Source: Foot and mouth disease | Alberta.ca

What to Do If You Suspect a Case of FMD

FMD is a reportable disease and must be reported to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). Whether a case is suspected or confirmed, report it to the chief veterinary office in your province within 24 hours.

Source: Foot and mouth disease | Alberta.ca

Tips for Travellers

  • Declare all meat and other animal products brought into Canada (includes semen, embryos, and hides)
  • If coming from a country with FMD, avoid farms, parks, zoos, feed mills, equipment, and livestock for 14 days
  • If you must come into contact with an above area:
    • Clean and disinfect footwear, or ideally, dispose of footwear worn abroad
    • Dry clean clothing worn abroad
    • Thoroughly shower and clean under fingernails
    • Disinfect all personal belongings
    • Follow all biosecurity procedures at the facility
  • If you live on a farm, avoid going home for 36 hours by staying at an alternative residence where someone can bring you clean clothing and footwear to wear home

Source: Foot and mouth disease | Alberta.ca

What Happens If FMD Reaches Canada

If FMD was identified in Canada, the CFIA would identify exposed premises, cull exposed and high-risk potentially exposed livestock, and decontaminate the environment. Disposal would occur by incineration or burial.

The Canadian beef industry is continually advocating for the development of an FMD vaccine bank. However, routine FMD vaccination is not allowed in Canada for several reasons. Primarily, routine blood tests cannot distinguish vaccinated animals from infected ones, making vaccinated livestock ineligible for export with Canada’s trading partners. If Canada did widely vaccinate, we would lose “FMD-free without vaccination” status. Many of Canada’s trading partners, including the US, restrict imports from countries that vaccinate for FMD, even for animals that are proven to not carry the virus.

However, if prevention and disease control fail, Canada may vaccinate for FMD to reduce widespread culling. To regain “FMD-free without vaccination” status, Canada would have to wait 3 months after the last case, or in the case of vaccination, 3 months after the slaughter of the last vaccinated animal.

If widespread culling occurs, producers will be compensated for the market value of their lost animals.

Source: Questions and Answers – Response to Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD) – Canadian Food Inspection Agency (canada.ca)

Tips for Preventing FMD Introduction to Your Farm

  • Prevent visitors from accessing your livestock
  • Prevent livestock contact with wildlife
  • Regularly disinfect footwear, clothing, and equipment
  • Keep records of people, livestock, feed, supplies, and equipment moving on and off your farm
  • Keep new animals separate for an initial quarantine period (at least 5 days)

Source: Questions and Answers – Response to Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD) – Canadian Food Inspection Agency (canada.ca)

More Information

To learn more about FMD and biosecurity preparedness, check out the following resources.

VBP+ Producer Reference Manual – Vulnerable, Distressed & High-Risk Cattle, Biosecurity and Emergency Response Plan modules in particular

VBP+ Training 2.0 on the Canadian Cattle Learning Center

TEAM feeder cattle sale featuring VBP+ Certified operations

Emma Cross

TEAM is hosting a feeder cattle sale featuring cattle from operations with CRSB Certified Sustainable status through VBP+. The sale will start at 9:00am MDT on Friday, September 23rd and will offer both calves and yearlings.

Contact Jason Danard with TEAM to ask further questions or book your cattle into the sale.

Find the sale info here. If you are interested in buying, be sure to check out the details on sale lots and get approved to bid before sale day!

Canadian Cattle Learning Centre: More than just training

Emma Cross

One of the exciting new elements of the Canadian Cattle Learning Centre is the redesigned online VBP+ training modules. However, this new platform isn’t just for new members of the VBP+ program.

Most obviously, training evolves with the changing Canadian beef industry. Certified producers who enroll in the Canadian Cattle Learning Centre can review the new VBP+ training modules to see what has been updated to reflect changes since they took the training. Additionally, operations that seek out additional training outside of the VBP+ program can upload these experiences to their transcript to demonstrate commitment to continuous improvement.

In addition, no one’s memory is perfect! An enrolment fee of $50 secures access to the Canadian Cattle Learning Centre for five years, letting producers come back to the training modules as much as they’d like to review concepts and program requirements. The new training also features self-assessments throughout to help producers track their progress towards meeting all standards. This tool can help certified producers reassess their operations to make sure they are still meeting requirements throughout the five-year audit cycle, particularly before records assessments and self declarations.

The Canadian Cattle Learning Centre is far from complete. In the future, VBP+ will continue to develop and add new training opportunities to the platform, providing centralized access to a variety of learning. A module focusing on the pre-certification process to help prepare new producers and operations seeking re-certification is currently in the works.

A visual overview of the 2030 Canadian Beef Industry Goals
A visual overview of the 2030 Canadian Beef Industry Goals

Most importantly, the Canadian Cattle Learning Centre has relevance in the big picture of the Canadian beef industry. The Canadian Beef Advisors released a set of nationally framed goals for the industry, which focus on securing environmental, social, and economic security into the future. Many of these goals are targeted at maintaining public trust in the Canadian beef industry.

VBP+ producers already demonstrate commitment to sustainable beef production by meeting program requirements. However, industry advocates need a way to show tangible evidence of the good work of Canadian beef producers to policymakers, consumers, and other stakeholders. Training rates on the Canadian Cattle Learning Centre, as well as producer transcripts, will provide simple metrics to communicate the dedication of Canadian beef producers to continuous improvement as the industry evolves in response to consumer demands.

In general, the Canadian Cattle Learning Centre is a win-win-win situation. Producers gain an easy to access, engaging platform for training and a simple way to track their industry-related education. Industry advocates acquire a simple method for communicating the good work that Canadian farmers and ranchers are already doing. Finally, other stakeholders outside of the industry, including consumers, gain confidence in the safety and sustainability of the Canadian beef on their plates.

To register for the Canadian Cattle Learning Centre, click here.

To learn more about the Canadian Cattle Learning Centre and how to sign up, see the last VBP+ blog post.

Explore the brand new Canadian Cattle Learning Centre

Emma Cross

Canadian beef producers are always keen to make their operations the best they can be. However, taking time away from the farm to seek out learning opportunities is rarely easy. Luckily, VBP+ has launched the Canadian Cattle Learning Centre to make it easy for ranchers to improve their operations from the comfort of their own homes.

The Canadian Cattle Learning Centre houses the brand new eleven online training modules for the VBP+ program. Producers can take the training at their own pace as they navigate through content which has been refreshed to be more engaging and relevant to the modern industry. The modules include graphics, animations, links to key resources, and interactive activities to make training more effective and more fun!

One of the key features of the new online training is the self-assessment tool. Throughout each module, trainees are presented with questions to reflect on how their operation is doing in relation to key VBP+ program requirements. While responses are not evaluated by auditors, producers can view and print their results to assess their progress towards meeting all requirements for a successful audit.

As well as the VBP+ training modules, producers can also upload other training that they have completed outside of the VBP+ program. The Canadian Cattle Learning Centre compiles these opportunities into a transcript, allowing producers to demonstrate their commitment to continuous improvement on their operations through education. In the future, VBP+ is looking to create additional content to provide more training opportunities directly through the Canadian Cattle Learning Centre.

How to Sign Up

cclc-home-snapshot

 

 

 

 

To register for the Canadian Cattle Learning Centre, click here. Follow the sign-up process below:

  1. Hit Log In at the top right corner, then choose Sign Up at the bottom of the pop up menu.
  2. Enter your personal information and click Sign Up.
  3. Enroll in the course Subscription 2022 and pay the $50 enrolment fee for five years of access.
  4. Enroll in the VBP+ 2.0 course to take the online training.

To take the entire course one module at a time, please select the individual modules/lessons. While completing individual modules provides the complete training and includes self-assessments for each module, there is no self-assessment summary provided at the end of each module.

Need Help?

If you have questions about the Canadian Cattle Learning Centre or the new online training, please reach out to your provincial coordinator. These individuals are there to help guide you through the VBP+ program every step of the way and help you achieve success in training and/or certification.

To find the contact information for your provincial coordinator, click here.

It pays to be sustainable: FCC announces Sustainability Incentive Program

Emma Cross

Farm Credit Canada (FCC) is working with innovative producers to grow a more sustainable industry. FCC recognizes that sustainability is important to the future of agriculture, and wants to encourage an increase in the number of certified producers. To do so, FCC has opened their Sustainability Incentive Program to eligible customers who are certified through the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (CRSB).

fcc

FCC will provide a payment to FCC customers who are CRSB certified through one of the CRSB’s certification bodies, including VBP+. So, VBP+ certified producers can take advantage of this opportunity.

The payment from FCC will be calculated as a portion of their lending with FCC, with a maximum of $2,000 paid per year. Eligible producers can reapply for the incentive payment annually.

Already Certified?

Customers who are already CRSB certified can apply for the program here.

Want to Participate but Aren’t Certified Yet?

The first step to getting certified is being trained. Contact the provincial VBP+ coordinator for your province using the info found here to learn about in-person and online training opportunities. Your provincial coordinator will also guide you through the process of preparing for an audit to get certified.

Once you are trained and are ready to get ready for certification, the next step is contacting VBP+ Delivery Services Inc. (the certification branch of VBP+). Find contact info here.

For an overview of the certification process and five-year audit cycle, click here.

Looking for More Information?

To learn more about the program, click here.

Questions about FCC Sustainability Incentive Program should be directed to:

Jill McAlister, Corporate Communication, Farm Credit Canada

306-540-4840 | jill.mcalister@fcc.ca

Building value and trust: The value of VBP+ certification

Emma Cross

For beef producers, time is money. From the cow-calf sector to the feedlot, producers don’t have time to spare on things that don’t offer practical benefit. Fortunately, VBP+ certification provides those benefits, beginning with dollars and cents.

At first glance, VBP+ certification may seem daunting. Certified producers have to keep detailed records and spend time aligning their management practices with program requirements. However, many of the required practices can actually improve profitability.

With some practices, the return on investment is easy to see. For example, meeting the nutritional requirements of your cattle is integral to achieving the peak performance that gets you more pounds, and in turn, more dollars to your deposits.

For other requirements, the economic value might be buried a little deeper. Take the treatment record as an example. To some, taking the time to write down details regarding individual and group treatments may seem like a cost. However, knowing when and how you treated an animal can help you monitor its response to treatment and adjust your next steps accordingly, preventing you from wasting expensive veterinary products and helping you get that animal back to better performance sooner. This means saving on costs and avoiding further losses to income.

VBP+ certification can also add dollars to your bottom line on the revenue side. With the right marketing, the VBP+ certified stamp allows you the opportunity to access a premium on cattle sold to suppliers specifically looking to source cattle from VBP+ operations, or other similar programs. On October 7, Walmart Canada committed to purchasing 1.5 million pounds of beef sourced from operations certified under the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (CRSB). Since VBP+ is a certification body for CRSB, VBP+ certified operations get access to price premiums under this stream that they would forego without certification. As more operations get certified, this opportunity will only continue to grow.

A template of a certification card to accompany your cattle listed under the VBP+ program. Print your own here.
A template of a certification card to accompany your cattle listed under the VBP+ program. Print your own here.

Furthermore, several grants are available to producers implementing best management practices to receive funding back on new infrastructure that can make your operation more efficient and better suited to meeting program requirements. At the end of the day, investing the time, and sometimes money, to meet VBP+ certification requirements can mean more cash in your jeans when all is said and done.

While the bottom line tends to underscore all producer decisions, there’s value to VBP+ certification that can’t be counted. Over recent years, we’ve seen increased public criticism of animal agriculture. Social media and news outlets are channels for messaging that paints a dim picture of animal care and environmental responsibility. While producers might know that their practices don’t fit the dialogue circulating amongst consumers, sometimes the voice of agriculture isn’t loud enough to overcome it. Luckily, VBP+ certification can serve as our megaphone.

VBP+ certification is a concrete stamp showing stakeholders both within and outside of the beef industry that your operation upholds standards in areas that the public prioritizes, like animal care, food quality and safety, and environmental stewardship. A contracted third-party auditor visits your operation and validates the required practices you employ on your operation. Many of these requirements are things that most producers already do on-farm, but getting certified helps you prove your commitment to key program values in an unbiased way.

For producers that direct-market beef, VBP+ certification is an objective stamp of approval that consumers can look for when choosing a product. As with selling cattle under the VBP+ program, this can offer price premiums to enhance producer profit. Later in the supply chain, feedlots and processors have started to look for more cattle to fill the demand from retailers for sustainable beef that matches consumer desires. Increasing rates of certification across the Canadian beef industry will help spread the message of producer commitment to values shared by consumers. In turn, enhanced social support for our industry will foster longevity for beef demand.

From the ground level, VBP+ certification can be a way to put more dollars in your pocket. In the big picture, certified producers contribute to securing broad consumer demand for beef, maintaining the strength of our industry into the future.

To learn more about the certification cycle, click here.

A little learning goes a long way: The value in VBP+ training

Emma Cross

While certification is an important way that VBP+ contributes to helping beef producers improve their practices and enhance public trust, training is not just a first step towards the goal of an audit. Instead, training itself holds value for both the producer and the broader industry.

In the beef industry and beyond, knowledge is not static. As beef producers, our practices are constantly changing to keep up with new technology, changing regulations, emerging research, and consumer expectations. While there are plenty of resources out there to keep up to speed, training is one of the best ways to access up to date information across a variety of topics in a format targeted towards producers.

At home, most of our information comes from articles, social media posts, and other quick reference material. While these are convenient and useful to stay informed about the beef industry, they usually only cover one topic and can’t achieve the level of detail that a producer needs to implement new practices. In contrast, in VBP+ training, attendees learn about each of the VBP+ modules, covering everything from animal management practices to demonstrating community leadership.

Fortunately, VBP+ training is convenient and voluntary. Producers can access online modules or attend in-person sessions or webinars delivered by provincial coordinators. As a result, trainees benefit from being able to ask questions directly to VBP+ coordinators and can access them as resources to discuss regionally specific topics. Therefore, producers leave training with the best opportunity for continuous improvement on their own operation.

Training also contributes to securing social support for the industry. In the United States, the Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) program offers several training courses for producers across different industry sectors. Much like VBP+, producers can be trained in the modules required for BQA certification from the comfort of home. Additionally, producers can learn more with other courses like the hands-on Stockmanship and Stewardship workshop or the online Biosecurity advanced education module. BQA also has Transportation courses for both producers and professional drivers. This training has helped enhance and maintain strong beef demand in the US by demonstrating to consumers that producers are using responsible practices on-farm.

In Canada, VBP+ training helps serve the same purpose. For producers that direct market beef to consumers, communicating a VBP+ trained status assures clients of knowledge and commitment to using responsible practices. However, even for producers that never speak directly to the consumers that eat beef originating from their operation, VBP+ training contributes to a positive dialogue surrounding the beef industry across the country.

In a survey conducted by Loft 32 for VBP+ amongst retailers, food service leaders, processors, and amplifiers, one restaurant leader stated, “The need for training is critical and will continue to grow. It’s in our company mandate to foster and share best practices, and we expect the same from our supply chain partners.” Increasing rates of training amongst beef producers will provide industry advocates with data to show policymakers and food industry stakeholders tangible evidence of industry commitment to issues that they prioritize. That is, for the beef industry to stay relevant and strong in an agri-food context, training is key.

Public trust in animal agriculture has been damaged by messaging circulating on social media and through news outlets. If training rates across the country increase, this messaging can change to recognize the commitment of Canadian beef producers to consumer priorities like animal care and environmental stewardship.

In 2021, the Canadian Beef Advisors finished its release of seven national industry goals targeted for achievement by 2030. These goals build upon five-year objectives set out in the 2020-2024 National Beef Strategy, and cover the following topics:

  1. Greenhouse gas and carbon sequestration
  2. Land use and biodiversity
  3. Water and soil quality
  4. Animal health and care
  5. People health and safety
  6. Beef quality and food safety
  7. Technology and innovation

Notably, these focus areas overlap substantially with several VBP+ training modules. As a result, producers can become better equipped to support industry progress towards the 2030 Canadian Beef Industry Goals by participating in VBP+ training to support continuous improvement on-farm.

A visual overview of the 2030 Canadian Beef Industry Goals
A visual overview of the 2030 Canadian Beef Industry Goals

For example, producers that become VBP+ trained are contributing to positive consumer dialogue around the quality and sustainability of Canadian beef. This effort directly contributes to establishing “the inherent quality and value of Canadian beef in domestic and export markets”, which is one of the specific objectives outlined under the beef quality and food safety topic area.

In general, training contributes to the continuous improvement of beef operations, offering value to individual producers as they enhance the productivity and longevity of their own operations. On a broader scale, widespread training enhances public messaging about animal agriculture, generating a supportive consumer base to keep the beef industry going long into the future.

Learn more about VBP+ training here.

Exchanging value from east to west: Marketing in sustainable beef supply chains

Emma Cross

One of the benefits of becoming VBP+ certified is the opportunity to market cattle into supply chains sourcing from operations audited for sustainable practices. In return for the opportunity to label their products with this stamp of approval, processors and retailers may offer producers a price premium on their cattle. Furthermore, certified producers have access to buyers that source from a smaller group of operations that adhere to their standards, giving them better access to more sale opportunities.

VBP+ is also a third party auditor for the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (CRSB). This means that VBP+ certified producers can market their cattle within the Certified Sustainable Beef Framework, which includes supply chains leading to major retailers like McDonald’s, Walmart, and more.

Opportunities to market cattle into these streams exist across the country. From the Maritimes in the east to British Columbia in the west, processors actively seek out VBP+ producers to provide them with the extra value that comes with certified cattle.

In the Maritimes, Atlantic Beef Products Inc. sources all its product from PEI Certified Beef Producers. Along with specific program requirements, they recommend that their producers be registered under Verified Beef Production Plus. The program relies on values like animal care, environmental stewardship, and food safety and quality, all of which align with VBP+ requirements.

Just to the west in Quebec, Meyer Natural Foods also takes pride in working with VBP+ producers. “Meyer Natural Foods holds the highest standard when it comes to humane handling,” says Scott Coakley, Head of the Procurement Team for Meyer Natural Foods. “Meyer has partnered with the VBP+ program. Both Meyer and VBP+ standards meet or exceed the human standards that the industry is looking for. Meyer is a strong supporter of VBP+ and is looking forward to working together in the coming year.”

These sourcing opportunities demonstrate processors’ response to changing industry standards, leading producers to markets that reward them for evolving over time. Luckily, producers can be granted value beyond additional marketing opportunities.

True North Foods of Manitoba offers a consistent price premium for cattle that meet the requirements for their grass fed program. This comes out to a 20 cent premium above current market bid.

Duane Vaags, Grass Fed Beef Program Auditor for True North Foods, expressed how easy it is for VBP+ certified producers to integrate into this program. “I have always been impressed with VBP+ producers and how the program runs,” says Vaags. “They are very prepared and have all their documentation ready to go.”

For True North Foods, documentation is especially important, since their program relies on traceability via RFID tags. Additionally, the animal welfare component of their program aligns with animal health and care standards adhered to by VBP+ producers. So, being certified with VBP+ is an easy ticket to accessing price premiums like this one.

A well-known name encouraging producer participation in sustainable beef supply chains is Cargill. Working from CRSB’s Certified Sustainable Beef Framework, Cargill developed the Canadian Beef Sustainability Acceleration pilot to offer some value back to producers throughout the chain. For cattle that are raised and fed entirely on VBP+ certified operations and go on for slaughter at Cargill, each producer along the supply chain is eligible to receive a credit. These premiums have reached up to $20 per head.

In Alberta, Sendero Limited manages the chain of custody for Harmony Beef, sourcing cattle that qualify for CRSB’s Certified Sustainable Beef Framework. Like other processors, Harmony Beef can offer a price premium on qualifying cattle. We talked to Virgil Lowe, CEO of Sendero Limited, to dig into what drives this supply chain.

“End user demand is driving Sendero and Harmony Beef to work together to source CSB Certified cattle,” says Lowe. “Supplying CSB Certified beef enables restaurants and retailers to tell a positive story about the beef industry to their customers.”

Regardless of geography, processors’ interest in sourcing cattle from supply chains with standards for animal care and health, environmental stewardship, and food safety is a constant. With these same standards, VBP+ can help producers continue to access a broad consumer base well into the future.

Expecting emergencies: Preparing for disease outbreaks

Emma Cross

Despite our industry’s best efforts, emergencies happen. As in any aspect of life, producers can respond best when disaster strikes by being prepared well beforehand.

The newest section of the VBP+ Producer Reference Manual, Emergency Response Plan, has just been released. This tenth module of the manual walks producers through being prepared for various types of crises that can occur on-farm, from natural disasters to equipment failure.

Among the topics of concern under this section of the manual are animal health emergencies, including outbreaks of reportable diseases like foot-and-mouth disease (FMD). FMD is an non-treatable, infectious disease that can be rapidly spread between animals and operations. According to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), FMD can cause the following symptoms:

  • Depressed behaviour
  • Increased body temperature
  • Vesicles (blisters) on the tongue, lips, teats, and hooves
  • Reduced appetite and milk production

The virus that causes FMD can be spread by direct contact with infected livestock, but CFIA also notes that animals can contract FMD via airborne transmission over long distances. Indirect transmission can also occur if animals have contact with any kind of clothing, equipment, facilities, vehicles, feed, or water contaminated with the virus.

Luckily, FMD is currently absent from the Canadian cattle herd. However, introduction of this disease from another country could cause a larger outbreak that would have disastrous effects on Canada’s stance in the global beef trade, as well as on animal welfare.

As a country “free of FMD”, Canada prohibits imports of animals or animal products of susceptible species unless they have been processed to destroy any potential FMD virus contamination. Similarly, if Canada were to encounter an outbreak, global trade barriers would be imposed upon Canadian beef exports until a disease-free status was recovered. CFIA explains that an outbreak of FMD would lead to euthanasia of all animals infected or exposed to the virus as well as protocols for quarantine, tracing, and decontamination.

Due to the potential consequences of an FMD outbreak and the ability of the disease to spread rapidly even without direct animal contact, surveillance for and early detection of FMD is key. The Animal Health Emergency Management (AHEM) project has released two resources to help beef and dairy producers contribute.

Click here to view the AHEM project's Preparing for Animal Disease Emergencies brochure.
Click here to view the AHEM project’s Preparing for Animal Disease Emergencies brochure.

“It is important for producers to be proactive in preparing for animal health emergencies, such as a foot-and-mouth disease outbreak,” says Todd Bergen-Henengouwen, Resource Development lead with the Animal Health Emergency Management project. “Knowing what to look for and how to respond can make a difference in preventing the spread or limiting the impact of a contagious animal disease.”

The Animal Health Emergency Management Summary Brochure informs producers of the response phases for animal health emergencies. This document includes specific steps for operations to follow in first understanding the importance of emergency response, preparing for emergencies on their own operation, and finally responding to an outbreak on-farm or elsewhere.

 

Click here to view the AHEM project's Detecting Foot-and-Mouth Disease in Cattle brochure.
Click here to view the AHEM project’s Detecting Foot-and-Mouth Disease in Cattle brochure.

The AHEM project also released another document, titled Detecting Foot-and-Mouth Disease in Cattle, which focuses specifically on FMD. This resource shows producers how to recognize the signs of FMD and details what actions to follow if FMD is detected, as well as what to expect from an outbreak.

These two documents align closely with the recommendations of the Emergency Response Plan module of the VBP+ Producer Reference Manual. FMD detection is an excellent example of the need to be prepared for disasters before they happen. Take a chance to review the new module, along with the AHEM documents, to be prepared for whatever may come your way.