The direct and indirect impacts of COVID-19 are being felt in all industries across Canada. DFC has been working with a number of stakeholders to ensure farmers and consumers have access to the most up-to-date information. Below is a compilation of facts, tips and Q&As intended for farmers. Please also contact your provincial dairy association for further information.
Facts and Tips
Social distancing is proven to be one of the most effective ways to reduce the spread of illness during an outbreak. Practice social distancing by making a conscious effort to keep a physical distance of at least 2 metres between each other.
- avoid non-essential meetings and practice social distancing when essential suppliers are on the farm
- avoid common greetings, such as handshakes
- limit contact with people at higher risk like older adults and those in poor health
Practice regular hygiene measures at all times:
- wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
- use alcohol-based hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available
- when coughing or sneezing, cough or sneeze into a tissue or the bend of your arm, not your hand
- avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands
- clean surfaces you touch frequently with regular household cleaners or diluted bleach (1 part bleach to 9 parts water) in your home. At the farm, pay particular attention to surfaces you and other people are touching: door handles, taps, hoses, bulk tank openings and valves, milking equipment, etc. Ensure you clean these areas additionally before and after visits of milk truck drivers, veterinarians, and other service providers.
- require staff and farm workers to wear disposable gloves at all times, paying special attention to hand and glove hygiene when milking cattle or handling milking equipment.
- Regularly reinforce these hygiene measures with your staff and farm workers.
More information on the Public Health Agency of Canada website.
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.
- The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) has compiled a list of dos and don’t regarding the handling of animals at https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/2019-novel-coronavirus-infection/prevention-risks.html
Following heightened biosecurity protocols is more important than ever. Social distancing is meant to limit any spread of the virus both to a service provider and a farmer. In most cases, milk pick up and feed drop off can be done without the farmer present. If a farmer needs to provide special instructions, phone/video could be used in advance or the farmer could provide guidance from over 2 meters away from the service provider on the farm.
- Only allow important and essential service providers on your farm (e.g. vets, milk truck drivers, feed delivery, etc.);
- Do not shake hands, stay at a distance of 2 metres when you speak to them, or opt to communicate by phone before, during or after a visit;
- Wash your hands frequently and reinforce general hygiene practices with your staff and farm workers;
- Post biosecurity signs at every entrance to your farm and barn instructing your suppliers to call you before entering the barn or moving around the property;
- Put an object (e.g. sawhorse) in the middle of your driveway with the biosecurity sign so that suppliers cannot miss or ignore the sign.
- Milk truck drivers also have to follow heightened biosecurity protocols to ensure the safety of milk supply chain. You can support them by having cleaning materials ready for their use in the milk house.
- National Biosecurity Standards and Biosecurity Principles
- National Farm-Level Biosecurity Planning Guide.
Other useful links
Resources on mental health amid concerns about COVID-19
- Do More Agriculture Foundation
- Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH)
- Canadian Mental Health Association
- Tips to respond to employee anxiety about COVID-19
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (US)
These Facts and Tips will be updated as more information becomes available.
Questions and Answers
- How does social distancing affect my farm and the services I can expect from my suppliers and others?
As a farmer and business owner, you should plan for the ongoing operation of your farm. For the sake of your health, that of your family and employees, practice good public health recommendations. Limit the number of visitors on your farm, while taking into account the needs of your farm and your animals. Maintain that 2-metre distance with your suppliers of essential goods and services and avoid shaking hands.
- Where can I find guidance to plan for potential human resources issues for my farm?
You may need to think of creative solutions if you and your usual back-up farm workers develop COVID-19 symptoms. Review your pandemic preparedness plan, if you have one, or use the guides prepared by the Canadian Dairy Commission to develop one (http://www.cdc-ccl.gc.ca/CDC/index-eng.php?link=127). Your plan should include strategies to ensure someone can milk and take care of your animals.
If you need further help, contact your neighbours, your provincial organization or other groups.
As well, the Canadian Agricultural Human Resources Council has developed the following helpful resource: https://cahrc-ccrha.ca/programs/emerging-agriworkforce-issues/information-and-updates-coronavirus-covid-19
- Are temporary foreign workers still admitted to Canada?
In addition to health screening protocols before travel, all individuals entering from abroad must isolate for 14 days upon their arrival in Canada.
A temporary modification is being made to the Labour Market Impact Assessment process for agriculture and food processing employers, as the required 2-week recruitment period will be waived for the next 6 months.
The government will increase the maximum allowable employment duration for workers in the low-wage stream of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program from 1 to 2 years.
For more information on the implementation, you can contact the Temporary Foreign Workers Program toll-free at 1-800-367-5693 for more information.
- If I already have a foreign worker on my farm, is he 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. You can contact the Temporary Foreign Workers Program toll-free at 1-800-367-5693 for more information. DFC is also actively encouraging the government to reduce the red tape to ensure a more expedited process.