Study probes colony interactions

Hutterite colonies’ strengths are their strong social foundation and widely diversified crop and livestock base.

That’s also their greatest biosecurity risks and something Hutterites and veterinarians want to understand better.

“They’re unique from really any other farming model that we have in Alberta and Saskatchewan,” said University of Calgary veterinary school researcher Egan Brockhoff.

“You’ll have 10 different livestock enterprises and you have people moving in some cases very freely from the poultry barn to the pig barn to the kitchen, and it’s a communal kitchen, and then back with their kids (who attend) a communal school.”

Brockhoff and two colleagues are designing a survey of 20 Dariusleut and Lehrerleut colonies in Alberta and Saskatchewan that will hopefully reveal how people and livestock interact on Hutterite colonies.

The colonies are not like other common mixed farms because the underlying social structure creates far different human flows employing larger numbers of people.

They also involve many types of livestock. Figuring out all the ways humans and animals interact on a colony will be difficult.

“It’s a bit more of a social science survey,” Brockhoff told the Canadian Swine Health Forum.

“(For example), the minister wants to be able to move freely around his flock and enter sites at his will to speak with people,” he said.

“This creates risks and it’s sometimes difficult to encourage them to do the boot change and the hand wash, and to shower through.”

Another complication is the movement of children between the barns.

“The colonies encourage this,” said Brockhoff.

“They want their children to move between sites and understand what happens on the colony, and they want to encourage the children to be engaged.”

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