Simply Sustainable Biosecurity

This week LEAF will be launching Simply Sustainable Biosecurity, the fourth in our Simply Sustainable series of technical guidance booklets. Ahead of its launch, Senior Technical Assistant, Jenny Clark, sets out the basics of biosecurity, its importance to sustainability and highlights LEAF’s growing offer in the livestock sector.

Biosecurity Basics

In the context of animal production, biosecurity is a series of management steps and practices implemented to prevent the introduction of infectious agents into a herd or flock. 

Biosecurity measures are often paramount to a livestock farm however, they can sometimes slip. When biosecurity measures go wrong, they can go very wrong leading to catastrophic knock-on effects to animal welfare, business sustainability and food production, like those seen in the UK during the Foot and Mouth outbreak of 2001.  It attracted much media attention with extensive animal suffering and millions of animals having to be destroyed in the disease control efforts. Economic difficulties were severe for agricultural communities and the estimated costs to the UK economy ran into billions. 

The Challenge

Livestock production is a central element of any sustainable farming system, providing nutrition, fibre, environmental stewardship and energy production.  With a growing and more affluent population, livestock production is set to increase meaning that high quality management of livestock and the environment in which they are reared will need to be maintained.    

Why is Biosecurity Important?

Happy and healthy animals are closely linked to the performance, yield and economic viability of the whole farming enterprise. Unhealthy animals are less productive, more expensive to rear, produce more outputs and use more feed, water, energy and soil resources.  

Best practice biosecurity is crucial to ensure: 

- healthy livestock

- high standards of food safety and food security

- reducing environmental impacts

- a vibrant and sustainable agricultural industry 

Simply Sustainable Series

Those already familiar with LEAF’s Simply Sustainable Series will know these booklets offer easy, practical advice to help farmers address key areas of sustainable farming through Integrated Farm Management.

Simply Sustainable Biosecurity is no different. The booklet outlines six simple steps that can be easily included in existing daily, weekly or annual tasks - starting with the importance of good Monitoring, then covering how to Limit Exposure to diseases through managing stock movements, controlling access and being clean, and finally covering By-Product Management Best Practice. These steps are just a starting point and should be tailored to individual farm enterprises, animals and risk factors.   Practical case studies also offer ‘real life’ examples of how farmers are tackling biosecurity challenges on their own enterprises. 

LEAF Member, Sion Williams, Bowhill Estate, explains how Limiting Exposure (Steps 3, 4 & 5) are particularly important to the business:

“Quarantine is essential to reduce the risk to your own animals, but we reduce our reliance on quarantine when stock are purchased from a clean source (already testing or testing pre-movement). We are now only buying rams from clean sources and if not we are testing them pre-movement. I wouldn’t be buying a bull unless it was the same status or better. And maintaining own replacements is a must.”

“Simply Sustainable Biosecurity really makes you think and the case studies are very good and easy to follow.” 

Simply Sustainable Biosecurity is part of LEAF’s ongoing focus to strengthen our offer in the livestock sector.  Our members only management tool, the LEAF Sustainable Farming Review has been recently developed to better support the implementation of Integrated Farm Management on livestock farms and we are also seeing an increasing number of livestock enterprises becoming LEAF Marque certified.

We are delighted to have developed Simply Sustainable Biosecurity and our thanks to everyone involved in its development particularly the Whitley Animal Protection Trust, Stephen Fell, Hugh McClymont, Tim Pratt and John Renner.  We hope that it supports livestock farmers to drive forward more resilient and sustainable businesses. 

SimpIy Sustainable Biosecurity will be launched on the 17th May at LEAF’s IFM Event and can be downloaded here.