The next phase of proAction, “Biosecurity,” is to start this September. So our son attended the mandatory course with our local vet. To our son’s surprise, we were the only proAction certified farm at the table and one of only 1,300 in the province. This April we “self declared” and our second inspection will be in 2020.
As expected, biosecurity contains more Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), but only one applies to us. We don’t vaccinate (does that make us bovine anti-vaxxers?). We don’t buy, nor have “returning” cattle. When an animal leaves the farm, it does not return, so we have no quarantine areas or protocols for such animals. Should we decide to vaccinate, we would consult our vet first. Writing anything now would be just guessing and useless. So our SOP will state: “Not practised here,” the same entry we will record for other non-applicable SOP requests.
Going through the book, it seems biosecurity depends on signs to protect against visitors but from our own experience they don’t work.
We practised biosecurity long before it was called that. Forty years ago we referred to it as keeping noses out of the barns . . . and still do. Too many do not realize what they carry from barn to barn. This includes reps from Dairy Farmers of Ontario, Dairy Farmers of Canada and Dairy Herd Improvement, who should be shining examples to others. We supply disposable boots and coveralls but have to catch them before they enter the barn. Really, they should carry their own and put them on as soon as they exit their vehicles.
Our prior farm had three barns, one each for the cows, sheep and pigs. All barn doors had “do not enter” signs on them. The pig barn door went one better. It had a home-made sign about 12 inches wide and 18 inches high with a drawing of a piglet sitting on its haunches with one front leg raised, pointing at the reader. Across the top the sign read “DO NOT ENTER” and along the bottom “THIS MEANS YOU!” Many commented on it after walking into the barn. Eventually, it was stolen off the door. I would still like it back.
At the old farm, cars drove up the lane, right beside the house and the driver went straight into the barn. If I knew someone was there, I would put on boots and run after them but they were invariably already inside, spreading germs from the last place. “Just looking for the boss” was the usual explanation. That is still the most common reason given when someone is found inside our present barn at 11 a.m. or two in the afternoon. No, he is off farming, not milking.
At our current farm, “DO NOT ENTER” signs went on the barn doors. The milk house barn door says “BIOSECURITY PRACTISED HERE – DO NOT ENTER.” It doesn’t work either, as everyone still walks in. We stopped buying corn from one farm as his son would deliver it, set up our auger into the bin and “explore” while it unloaded.
Our farm has a circular driveway. Visitors can either go left 50 feet to the house or go right about 150 feet toward the barn. Everyone goes to the barn, regardless of the time of day.
When England had hoof and mouth problems and Canadian farms were urged to be extra vigilant, we put up a sign and orange pylons across the lane, indicating that visitors should come to the house. It made no difference. Everyone just drove around the pylons onto the grass. The same with trying to keep people out of the barn during the BSE problem. Signs are always meant for everyone else.
Will proAction’s signs be any more successful? Probably not.
Angela Dorie is an agricultural writer and Jersey dairy farmer near Cornwall.