By Melissa Moggy – Alberta Farm Animal Care

On November 29th, 2019, I attended a lunch n’ learn on the Animal Health Emergency Management (AHEM) Project. The goal of the project is to provide producers and their organizations with sector-specific tools that can be used in a disease emergency. At the end of the first phase, the project developed 13 plans and handbooks for different species and specific regions.

In Alberta, there are 3 handbooks for:
Alberta Milk
Alberta Beef Producers
Alberta Pork

The second, current phase will produce another 12 to 15 plans and handbooks, three to five national plans will be created, and training and workshops will be hosted. The main goal of the lunch n’ learn was to raise awareness and to simulate emergency situations.

One scenario highlighted how many animals move within Alberta and how quickly disease can spread throughout North America. We also reviewed how zones would be established in an emergency situation, such as the infected zone that would surround the contaminated site with a minimum radius of 3km.

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In the five to 10 days it takes to establish zones, all susceptible operations, auction markets, and abattoirs may be asked to participate in a voluntary cease movement (VCM). The VCM can impact large areas, even the entire province, depending on the emergency and may last for up to three days. We discussed what it would take for an industry to comply with a VCM. We acknowledge that a VCM would impact industries differently. For example, swine operations have a higher turnover rate of animals and would have difficulty keeping animals on the farm for long periods. This reinforced the message that operations need to be self-sufficient for up to 72 hours.

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One concern raised was that during a VCM, some operations may feel that it doesn’t apply to them. However, during a VCM when the zones have not yet been determined, everyone must act as if they pose a biosecurity threat to the province.

Furthermore, the livestock industry needs to be aware of these processes and be prepared for emergency situations. The handbooks are great resources to help producers understand the risks to their industry, prepare for emergency events, understand their role in responding to events, and where to find the on-farm resources needed in an emergency.

I recommend that everyone review their industry’s handbook and, if possible, attend a workshop.

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