Biosecurity may be defined as any management practice or systematic application that prevents the spread of pathogens from infected animals to susceptible animals and that prevents the introduction of pathogens or infected animals into a herd, region, or country where the pathogen or disease is not prevalent. Disease outbreaks on livestock farms impact the health and welfare of animals in addition to the economic viability of the farm. An effective biosecurity program minimizes the risk of pathogen exposure and subsequent disease outbreaks and their negative impacts on animal health and farm profitability. The tenets of biosecurity have long been recognized by veterinarians. However, interest in biosecurity as a scientific discipline has surged primarily because of disease outbreaks that have threatened to devastate agricultural economies and because of bioterrorism (intentional introduction of disease-causing pathogens into sovereign territories).
Benefits of an effective biosecurity program include optimized animal health and welfare, improved animal productivity, reduced production and input costs, and enhanced value of the herd due to freedom from certain disease-causing pathogens. Livestock producers directly benefit from an effective biosecurity program because they can realize the economic gains from investing time and effort in maintaining a healthy herd and controlling disease. Improving the health and welfare of livestock also bolsters the image of livestock producers as individuals who are concerned with animal well-being.
Maintaining the health of livestock is a process that requires formulation of a comprehensive biosecurity plan that incorporates the necessary measures and policies that will promote satisfactory animal health and welfare. Successful implementation requires awareness by all involved and adherence to established policies.
Biosecurity protocols should be developed and applied in an objective manner with the focus on pathogens and disease processes that are of economic relevance to livestock producers. Where applicable, risk assessments may prove valuable for establishing farm-level strategies that facilitate prevention of pathogen introduction (external biosecurity) and that also promote effective control of pathogens that are already present on the farm (internal biosecurity). Biosecurity protocols should reflect the realities of the farm as they relate to farm personnel, facilities, and the purpose and production goals of the farm. Biosecurity plans should be subjected to review and modification as conditions on the farm and goals of the farm change.
Last full review/revision July 2011 by Darryl Ragland, DVM, PhD