Appreciating our food — but also biosecurity — during this Agriculture Week

Ontario Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Ernie Hardeman. Zandbergen photo, Nation Valley News

Op/Ed

by Ernie Hardeman
Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs

Protecting farm animal health goes way beyond feeding our livestock healthy, nutritious feed and providing a clean, comfortable space for them to live. Taking care of farm animals also includes protecting them against illnesses that can inadvertently be brought onto the farm from an outside source when proper safety protocols are not followed.

It’s no coincidence that October 7-13 is both Ontario Agriculture Week – when we acknowledge our farmers and their incredible contributions to our province — and Animal Health Week – a time to highlight the importance of maintaining the health and wellbeing of our farm animals.

Ontario’s farm and food businesses work hard to protect and care for their animals’ health and welfare through a series of best practices known as biosecurity. Biosecurity standards help prevent the introduction and spread of disease or pests on agricultural premises. These crucial practices, everywhere livestock are present, help keep our animals healthy and our food systems safe.

Certain illnesses can have devastating consequences to farm animals, the local economy and, in some cases, public health. If you visit a farm, you can — and should — do your part to help keep yourself, your family, and farm animals healthy. Here are some safety and biosecurity practices I encourage everyone to follow when visiting a farm:

• Get permission from the farmer before entering a farm, particularly if you intend to go into a barn or other area where animals are housed.
• Wear clean clothing and footwear or wear coveralls and shoe-covers in barns.
• Wash your hands both before entering and after leaving the farm.
• Minimize contact with animals and avoid touching animal feed and water
supplies.
• Always ask before feeding animals.
• Do not bring any outside food or beverages into animal areas.

By not following all of these safety and biosecurity practices, you may unknowingly introduce illnesses and put those farm animals at risk for disease.

The health and welfare of farm animals is a shared responsibility among farmers, industry members, service providers, and the provincial and federal governments — and anyone who visits a farm.

This Agriculture Week, I hope you will take a moment to appreciate the abundance of high-quality food the sector works hard to provide for us, and to also remember the need to protect the health and safety of farmers. And lastly, to be mindful of biosecurity practices when interacting with farm animals.

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