Biosecurity and livestock – Overview

Preventing disease from entering or leaving Alberta farms protects human and animal health, and supports sustainable livestock production.

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COVID-19 response

To date, there have been no reports of livestock being infected by COVID-19 anywhere. However, livestock producers should follow normal biosecurity measures as always. This includes limiting visitors or workers who may have travelled to – or been in contact with someone from – an affected area.

For updates on COVID-19 and on-farm disease prevention, see Biosecurity and livestock – Resources: COVID-19.

See also: COVID-19 info for Albertans.


Biosecurity refers to practices designed to prevent, reduce or eliminate the introduction and spread of disease. Concerns over the spread of animal diseases, particularly those of foreign origin, are high within the livestock industry.

Livestock diseases can affect any type of operation regardless of size. Biosecurity practices tailored to each operation minimize the introduction and/or transmission of disease:

  • on a given farm
  • between farms
  • between species

Importance of biosecurity

Biosecurity plays a vital role in sustainable livestock production. Principles of biosecurity have become the foundation for animal health which has an associated relationship to food safety, trade, and control of zoonotic diseases. Biosecurity practices are essential to maintaining market access and preventing the occurrence of Foreign Animal Disease (FAD) in Canada.

Biosecurity practices can:

  • prevent the introduction and spread of disease
  • protect humans from zoonotic diseases (diseases that are transmissible between animals and humans)
  • demonstrate commitment to animal health and food safety
  • be used as a recovery tool if disease incursions occur
  • save money spent on disease recovery costs

COVID-19 precautions

Although biosecurity is important at all times, it is especially important when disease outbreaks are occurring nationally or internationally. Today's global environment has the potential to spread diseases rapidly. Air travel has increased the number of people crossing borders on a daily basis and at any one time. Under these circumstances there is an elevated level of disease risk.

During the current COVID-19 pandemic, livestock producers should follow normal biosecurity measures and as always continue to consider the potential risks associated with various people entering their premises and implement measures to manage these visits.

Until more information on the susceptibility of livestock to infection with the COVID-19 virus is available, the general recommendation is that producers who have COVID-19 symptoms or are self-isolating due to contact with a COVID-19 case avoid unnecessary contact with animals. In addition, producers should exclude from their operations all visitors or workers who:

  • have travelled abroad in the last 14 days
  • are ill, especially with symptoms of COVID-19
  • have been in contact with a confirmed or suspected case in the last 14 days

For updates on COVID-19 and on-farm disease prevention, see Biosecurity and livestock – Resources: COVID-19.

Pillars of biosecurity

Livestock owners apply biosecurity measures throughout their farms. These measures form a biosecurity plan and are based on 3 main pillars:

Access management

Examples include:

  • designate and label zones
  • establish access requirements (for example, clean clothing and footwear)

Animal health management

Examples include:

  • quarantine new and returning animals
  • follow vaccination programs

Operational management

Examples include:

  • maintain buildings and equipment in good repair
  • follow pest control programs

For more information, see:

Canadian Food Inspection Agency – Basic Principles of Biosecurity

Canadian Food Inspection Agency – Biosecurity Tools

Develop a biosecurity plan

All livestock and poultry producers should have biosecurity plans tailored to their specific operation. Producers are encouraged to work with industry organizations, veterinarians and other animal health professionals in developing their plans. All farm staff and anyone living on the farm need to understand the importance of biosecurity and follow biosecurity protocols.

Complete the checklist to better understand your farm’s risk areas.

How diseases spread

Livestock and poultry diseases are typically spread by:

Direct contact between healthy and infected animals or humans. For example:

  • Infectious Laryngotracheitis (ILT) in chickens after introducing infected poultry to the resident flock
  • Scours in calves after mixing healthy and sick animals

Indirect contact between animals and contaminated environment or elements. For example:

  • Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea (PED) after transporting swine in contaminated trailers
  • Dermatitis in sheep after using contaminated shearing equipment

Airborne contact when the disease agent is carried through the air in certain weather conditions. For example:

Roles and responsibilities

All of the following need to understand and adopt best practices in biosecurity:

  • animal owners and types of livestock operations
  • livestock haulers
  • marketers
  • feed mills
  • processors
  • veterinarians
  • servicemen
  • inspectors
  • farm visitors (public)

It is everyone's role to be informed about biosecurity. Before visiting a farm, ASK the owner or manager about the operation's specific biosecurity protocols. Biosecurity protocols will vary from farm to farm and between animal species. Therefore it is important to ask each and every time you visit a farm.

For more information, see: Canadian Food Inspection Agency – Biosecurity information for the general public.

Biosecurity Champions

Biosecurity Champions is a self-governing group promoting the principles and practices of biosecurity in Alberta. The group is comprised of producers, industry organizations, farm service representatives, academic and veterinary organizations directly or indirectly involved with animal agriculture and related industries.

Key activities performed by the Biosecurity Champions include:

  • sharing of information on industry specific biosecurity initiatives
  • development and implementation of biosecurity promotional plans tailored to individual organizations
  • distribution of biosecurity resources

For more information about Biosecurity Champions or biosecurity resources contact 780-422-6630.


The following biosecurity resources are available for livestock producers:

Biosecurity and livestock – Resources

Canadian Food Inspection Agency – Basic Principles of Biosecurity

Cleaning and disinfecting backyard poultry flock premises

Keep Alberta small flocks healthy: Safely add to your small flock

Biosecurity for poultry: at shows, swaps and auctions

When disease enters your flock


Connect with the Office of the Chief Provincial Veterinarian:

Hours: 8:15 am to 4:30 pm (open Monday to Friday, closed statutory holidays)
Phone: 780-427-3448
Toll free: 310-0000 before the phone number (in Alberta)
Fax 780-415-0810

O.S. Longman Building
6909 116 Street
Edmonton, Alberta  T6H 4P2