Emergency preparedness strategies for safeguarding livestock against foreign animal disease

Emergency preparedness and the threat of foreign animal disease (FAD) looms large in the minds of livestock producers across Canada. The mere mention of these terms can send shivers down the spines of those who depend on healthy herds for their livelihoods.

Understanding the intricacies of preparedness and response, and exploring the roles of key stakeholders and the measures in place to safeguard Canada’s livestock industry against FAD, will help in preparedness. Through understanding and vigilance, producers can arm themselves with the knowledge and resources necessary to protect their animals and livelihoods in the face of adversity.

In the event of a “non-negative” test for a FAD, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) assumes control, spearheading the management and investigation of the outbreak. Using “non-negative” allows for a more cautious interpretation of the initial findings. It signifies that the test has detected something of concern but does not definitively confirm the presence of the disease in question and further investigation is required.

Agencies like the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) stand ready on the sidelines, offering support and expertise where needed, ensuring a coordinated response.

The commodity organizations play a supportive role, primarily focusing on communicating with their members. Additionally, they collaborate with affected farm(s), offering support and help where they can. This can be in different forms on each farm. Each farm is unique in how they manage an outbreak.

Foreign animal disease

In Canada, a FAD includes but is not limited to these diseases:

  • avian influenza virus
  • foot and mouth disease virus
  • classical and African swine fever viruses

Avian influenza

Influenza A (H5N1), also known as Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI), has become of interest to cattle producers in Canada due to the ongoing outbreak in cattle in the United States. Producers are encouraged to report clinical signs or suspected illness in their herds to their veterinarian immediately.

Foot and mouth disease

Foot and mouth disease (FMD) is a reportable disease in Canada because it can impact human health, animal health, and the Canadian economy. The last incidence of FMD in Canada was in Saskatchewan in 1952.

FMD is a severe, highly communicable viral disease of cattle and swine, which also affects sheep, goats, deer, and other cloven-hoofed ruminants (horses are not affected).

This disease would be the most difficult to contain as it affects multiple species. It would be devastating for Canada.

Using control zones to manage animal disease risk

Upon confirmation of a federally reportable disease, the CFIA initiates a control zone. This is a defined area aimed at halting the spread of disease from infected to disease-free areas. Movement restrictions within and in/out of the zone facilitate swift containment and eradication efforts.


The most effective way for producers to protect themselves from FAD is to increase biosecurity. I know everyone gives the eye roll when they hear that term but quite honestly it is the most effective way to protect your farm, family, and livelihood.

Some diseases that affect farms are zoonotic (meaning contagious to people) and it is critical to remind everyone that hand washing with soap and water after any contact with animals or their environment is necessary.

It is recommended that there are dedicated clothes, shoes, and work gloves when working with livestock. Having an anteroom, an area or room that immediately precedes the livestock area, provides a transition between the clean and dirty areas, and will help to keep any threats contained.

Review the biosecurity plan with all staff. Know the emergency contact numbers and have them readily available.


Prevention is key, work with your veterinarian to keep animals healthy and prevent disease. Ensure vaccination and herd health protocols are reviewed at least annually.

In conclusion, the threat of FAD casts a long shadow over Canada’s livestock industry, prompting a heightened sense of urgency among producers. Understanding the intricacies of preparedness and response, along with the roles of key stakeholders, is crucial in safeguarding against these threats.

Remember, commodity organizations are there to help producers navigate through emergencies, offering valuable support and guidance. By prioritizing prevention through vaccination and herd health protocols, producers can reinforce their defenses and protect their animals, families, and livelihoods from the devastating impact of these diseases.