COVID-19 Q&A for Dairy Producers
Service provider visits to your farm
How can farmers implement social distancing with all the people who are required to come on-farm on a regular basis (e.g. milk truck driver, feed, vet, AI, etc.)?
The food industry is recognized by the government as an essential sector, and industry staff are deployed to ensure food can still be produced and distributed. As such, you need to maintain access to key essential services on your farm; however, additional precautions are advised for these essential services. For example:
- Follow heightened biosecurity protocols. Post biosecurity notices at every entrance to your farm and barn with your contact information, instructing your suppliers to call you before entering the barn or moving around the property.
- Producers MUST NOT come into contact with Bulk Tank Milk Graders (BTMGs), while they are on farm property. This includes being in the milkhouse with the transporter at any time or approaching the truck driver while he or she is on farm.
- Only allow essential service providers on your farm. This includes veterinarians, milk truck drivers, AI technicians, feed delivery, etc. Restrict non-essential visits to your operation.
- Limit personal interaction with essential service providers. Farmers are advised not to interact with essential service providers in person. Do not shake hands, and stay at a distance of 2 metres if you must speak in person, or opt to communicate by phone before, during or after a visit (preferred method).
- Wash your hands frequently and reinforce general hygiene practices with your staff and family.
For more information on-farm disease prevention, producers are encouraged to consult the:
- National Biosecurity Standards and Biosecurity Principles
- National Farm-Level Biosecurity Planning Guide
What are Canadian government recommendations regarding handling animals?
For domestic animal species, to date there have been no reports of livestock being infected by COVID-19. As always, livestock producers should follow normal biosecurity measures, including limiting visitors or foreign workers who may have travelled to, or been in contact with, someone from an affected area.
It is very improbable that cows would be infected with this specific virus. Therefore, the main priority is for farmers to protect their own health.
The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) has compiled a list of “do’s and don’ts” regarding the handling of animals at: https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/2019-novel-coronavirus-infection/prevention-risks.html
Is there a risk of a person with COVID-19 infecting an animal, such as livestock? Or an animal to infect a human?
According to the Canada Food Inspection Agency and the OIE (World Organization for Animal Health), there is no evidence to suggest COVID-19 is circulating in dairy cattle or other livestock, nor that it could transmit from human to cattle or vice-versa. However, there are many things we do not know about this new virus and authorities are recommending to exercise an abundance of caution, including not having contact with animals if you are sick.
I heard there was a dog that tested positive for COVID-19. How did this happen? Should I be concerned for my own dog?
In the case of the dog testing positive in Hong Kong, the test showed the presence of genetic material from the COVID-19 virus, but the dog showed no signs of the disease. Understanding there may still be a lot to learn about this virus, there is no evidence that dogs could play a role in the spread of this human disease, or that they could become sick. The OIE will continue to share information as it becomes available.
If you are feeling unwell you are encouraged to keep some distance from your pet, avoid letting them lick you, sit on your lap, or sleep in your bed, and if possible have another member of your household care for your animals.
Is this virus similar or different than the bovine coronavirus?
COVID-19, is transmitted from human to human; it is different from the bovine coronavirus. Bovine coronavirus does not infect humans. A vaccine is available for cattle for bovine coronavirus. There is no evidence of COVID-19 circulating in livestock or other animals in Canada.
Human Resources Information
Where can I get guidance in figuring out potential human resources issues for my farm?
Ensure your business continuity plans are updated, which need to include training replacements in the event you may not be in a position to do daily farm chores and take care of animals.
The Canadian Agricultural Human Resources Council has put the following page together to help with many farm-related HR questions: https://cahrc-ccrha.ca/programs/emerging-agriworkforce-issues/information-and-updates-coronavirus-covid-19
The US Centre for Dairy Excellence can also provide additional information.
Are temporary foreign workers still admitted to Canada?
As of March 17 at 9:00pm Pacific Time, the federal government closed the border to foreign nationals, including all temporary foreign workers.
Given the potential negative effects of this measure on producers from across all agricultural sectors, Dairy Farmers of Canada is working in collaboration with the government and various agricultural stakeholder associations to find a solution. Producers will be updated as changes occur.
Our farm employs a temporary foreign worker who just arrived. Do they need to self-isolate?
Workers who recently landed in Canada must follow the 14-day self-isolation period as recommended by the BC Ministry of Health. For more information on this process, click here.
I was expecting the arrival of a temporary foreign worker. Where can I find up-to-date information?
For BC producers who are expecting the arrival of temporary foreign workers through the SAWP and/or AgStream programs, please refer to the Western Agriculture Labour Initiative (WALI) website for updates.
If I already have a foreign worker on my farm, is he or she entitled to an extension to stay?
Under the current program for temporary foreign workers, there is a possibility of extending the length of stay of temporary workers in Canada. We invite you to contact the Temporary Foreign Workers Program toll-free at 1-800-367-5693 for more information.
Please note: Information on COVID-19 is constantly evolving, so the above recommendations are subject to change. We will issue further updates as new information becomes available.