Effective safety system and risk anticipation
Pristine animal health

French genetic stock gets exported to countries and markets across the globe. Its success is grounded in the quality of French breeds and French genetic selection programmes. It also reflects worldwide recognition of the reliability of the national animal health control system and the guarantees it assures for our partners abroad.

Today’s results bear the fruit of tight-knit collaboration between government-sponsored animal health agencies, breeder organizations (animal health protection groups) and private-sector vets. In France, ensuring pristine health for the national herd stock is a shared concern.

 Pro-active surveillance delivers meaningful results

The impeccable animal health guarantees needed for cross-border trade are certified by government vets appointed to the Ministry for Agriculture veterinary services division. These guarantees are built on a vast regulatory screening and routine follow-up system that is rigorously applied nation-wide.

Animal diseases qualified as "notifiable", meaning they are subject to legally-enforced disease prevention and control programmes, encompass:

  • zoonoses (infectious diseases that can be transmitted to humans), such as brucellosis, tuberculosis or rabies;
  • highly contagious diseases with major economic damage to infected farms, such as foot-and-mouth disease;
  • diseases that have major negative repercussions on trade, such as infectious bovine rhinotracheitis (IBR) or warble fly infestation.

This targeted strategy has enabled France to stay officially tuberculosis-free since 2000, bovine leucosis-free since 2004, and bovine brucellosis-free since 2005 (zero outbreak site detected since 2004), and to swiftly bring bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) under control.

These exceptional results were made achievable by a pro-active surveillance effort and outstanding reactivity, as demonstrated by the way France was able to deal with the handful of foot-and-mouth cases recorded in 2001 and the epizootic bluetongue outbreak of 2006.

France is set to press ahead with this system by setting up a new dedicated national epidemiological surveillance platform which is designed to immediately detect any new zoonoses that could potentially find their way into the country (such as Rift Valley fever).

 Generalized screening and individual traceability

Every year, the entire French cattle herd is systematically put through screening as a statutory requirement. Five diseases are currently controlled under a nationwide disease prevention scheme: tuberculosis, brucellosis, enzootic bovine leucosis, infectious bovine rhinotracheitis (IBR) and warble fly infestation.

These systematic routine screening schemes serve as the basis for an official qualification awarded every year to the herds that meet the requisite tuberculosis, brucellosis and leucosis conditions. Any new animal brought into the farm gets health-tested so as to maintain the farm’s qualification. This new-import animal is kept isolated from the herd until its test results come through.

The official animal health certificate (the ’ASDA’ in French) attached to the animal’s ID passport must stay with each bovine throughout its movements. These documents are issued under the same national animal ID/traceability system that has been ensuring full end-to-end traceability on livestock movements for over 30 years now.

This pro-active surveillance system runs right through to the slaughterhouse, where Ministry for Agriculture-appointed vets complete their inspections, including screening tests for tuberculosis (all carcasses systematically examined) and BSE (systematic screening on all cattle aged >48 months; systematic withdrawal of all equipments specified as ’at risk’).

 Strict monitoring in every herd

Since the year 2000, it has been a legal requirement for all livestock keepers to keep an up-to-date farm register. On top of the basic animal ID data (inventory, passport, animal movement licenses, and so on), this register goes further by logging a vast array of animal health-related interventions: name of the veterinary services, date of the intervention, drugs and doses administered, treatment duration, holdback period before products are allowed to go on sale, and more.

This logbook also has to include an up-to-date file compiling all prescriptions, bills for veterinary drugs and medicated feeds, animal health test results, health assessments and veterinary inspection reports, delivery orders and labels for all feed purchases, etc.

Livestock farmers are required to conserve all the documents compiled into their livestock register on-farm, and for at least a 5-year retention period.

Furthermore, since 2007, all cattle farms are also subject to twice-yearly official controls led in application of EU legislatory measures EC 178/2002, 852/2004 and 853/2004, which since 2011 have been further extended to cover points related to antibiotic resistance policy.

This visit is performed by a State-sponsored vet, who will focus on control points such as animal health protection offered by the farm, farm buildings and equipment facilities, animal health management measures, veterinary medicines used, hygiene checks on the milking process, veterinary health logbook, and so on.

 Further guarantees brought by ’GDS’ and the ACERSA

Livestock health protection groups called Groupements de Défense Sanitaire (GDS) are breeder organizations created through French post-war policy as a département-level first line of defence against the threat of a foot-and-mouth outbreak.

These opt-in group-led organizations play a key role. They have proven particularly valuable for efficiently engaging active participation from livestock keepers, providing a platform for success on a series of ambitious animal health programmes led over the past 50 years.

The GDS have thus far efficiently developed specific prevention measures for animal diseases that, although ’non-notifiable’, still have direct economic impacts on livestock farming, such as bovine viral diarrhoea (BVD), neosporosis, paratuberculosis and Q fever.

By liaising with public and private-sector animal health authorities, the GDS enable their members to benefit from additional animal health, hygiene standards or even certification programmes, all of which are approved by official veterinary health services under French national animal health certification association (ACERSA) schemes.

The ACERSA is a national agency network spanning the entire animal health chain (from Ministry for Agriculture veterinary agencies to GDS, veterinary practices and veterinary testing labs) run through a coordinated participatory management set-up.

The ACERSA mobilizes this participatory-driven network to:

  • manage the delivery of official qualification certificates for herds (IBR-free, warble fly-free) and animals (non-BVD-PI) in accordance with specifications drafted specifically for each disease threat. Certificate validation hinges on passing regular audits;
  • designing and drafting health control strategies for farm livestock diseases such as BVD, paratuberculosis or Q fever;
  • project consultancy services for feasibility analyses prior to drafting health control or health-hygiene qualification plans.

Key figures

  • Tuberculosis-free official status since 2000
  • Bovine-leucosis-free official status since 2004
  • Bovine-brucellosis-free status official since 2005
  • 1 National Animal Health Certification Association (ACERSA)
  • 1 French National Laboratory for Stud animals Control (LNCR)
  • 1 Genetic Disease National Observatory