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A risk-based scoring system to quantify biosecurity in cattle production

Damiaans, Bert, Renault, Véronique, Sarrazin, Steven, Berge, Anna Catharina, Pardon, Bart, Saegerman, Claude, Dewulf, Jeroen
Preventive veterinary medicine 2020 v.179 pp. 104992
biosecurity, cattle, cattle diseases, cattle production, cross-sectional studies, dairy farming, experts, farms, herds, pathogens, production technology, questionnaires, risk factors, surveys, veal, veterinary medicine
Farm biosecurity includes all measures preventing pathogens from entering (external) and spreading within a herd (internal) and is important in facilitating the shift from cure to prevention in veterinary medicine. To assess biosecurity on farm level quantitatively an objective measurement process is required. This study describes the development and implementation of risk-based weighted biosecurity evaluation tools for veal, beef and dairy cattle farms. Based on risk factors and biosecurity measures associated with priority cattle diseases and the results of a cross-sectional survey on Belgian farms, questions were selected for the Biocheck-tool. The scoring system consists of three separate questionnaires that contain 69 (veal), 104 (beef) and 124 (dairy) questions. Experts in various fields of veterinary medicine were asked to weigh the different biosecurity categories and questions according to the method of Gore. The system obtained provides biosecurity scores per category (external and internal biosecurity) and subcategory (e.g. purchase, transport, health management). The Biocheck tool was subsequently used in a survey to assess biosecurity in 20 veal, 50 beef and 50 dairy farms. For all production systems, both internal and external biosecurity were considered low, resulting in low mean total biosecurity scores of 39.7 points for veal (SD = 7.4), 44.3 for beef (SD = 8.4), and 48.6 points for dairy farms (SD = 8.1), out of a maximum of 100 points. For all farm types, the scores for internal biosecurity were lower compared to external biosecurity. Veal farms scored significantly lower for “purchase” than beef and dairy, while scoring higher for the other subcategories of external biosecurity. In dairy and beef, “purchase and reproduction” was the highest scoring subcategory. For internal biosecurity, “health management” was particularly low in the three farm types, while subcategories exceeding 50 points were rare. With this tool, implementation of biosecurity on cattle farms can be assessed in a standardized and reproducible manner. This evaluation allows for benchmarking of farms and herd-specific advice for improvements.