On-farm biosecurity and animal care training for Ontario dairy farmers

Ontario’s dairy farmers are working with veterinarians to boost biosecurity and animal care training in their sector.

Dairy Farmers of Ontario (DFO) is in the process of rolling out the national proAction program in the province, an on-farm customer assurance program with requirements for food safety, animal care, livestock traceability, biosecurity, and environmental sustainability.

Biosecurity requirements – identifying and reducing the risk of introducing and spreading animal diseases on the farm – will become mandatory in September 2019. It was while preparing the training program for those new requirements that DFO identified some aspects of animal care where supplementary training would also be valuable.

With funding support from the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, DFO’s biosecurity training is now also addressing areas like animal welfare policies, down cattle guidelines, cull cow decision-making and antimicrobial stewardship. The organization has trained bovine veterinarians, who in turn are now delivering the program to farmers.

“Our producers have close relationships with their vets and they are encouraged to consult with their herd veterinarians as they work towards implementing the biosecurity requirements on their farms,” says Kateryna Dmytrakova, Assurance Programs Research Analyst at DFO.  

Vets are being trained through in-person and online sessions; many, according to Dmytrakova, are already certified proAction advisors. Producer training will include small group class session as well as a one-on-one on-farm component with a veterinarian.

DFO has used a similar training approach previously where bovine veterinarians worked directly with farmers, and producers have indicated that the on-farm training is particularly valuable. It’s costly to deliver, though, which makes the project funding a key component of the program.

“Without support from the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, we wouldn’t be able to offer this type of training to producers,” says Dmytrakova. “We could run the classroom training, but one-on-one sessions wouldn’t be possible without the funding.”

The project also includes development of the training materials, including requirements for cattle assessments and guidelines for downed cattle and cull cows.

“Farm animal welfare has become an important issue for consumers; it is important to them that animals on farms are well cared for,” says Dmytrakova. “Animal health, welfare and biosecurity are critical considerations at all stages of the dairy production chain and each significantly impacts on-farm productivity."

This project is funded in part through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership (the Partnership), a federal-provincial-territorial initiative. The Agricultural Adaptation Council assists in the delivery of the Partnership in Ontario.