Biosecurity in Livestock Production

Biosecurity Explained

The broad meaning of biosecurity literally means the safety of living things or the freedom of concern for sickness or disease. Another definition of biosecurity is "security from transmission of infectious diseases, parasites and pests".

Threat to Livestock

Biosecurity threats come from the possible introduction of a disease into a herd or flock, which is not known to have the disease. The introduction of disease usually will be of non-intentional nature but after September 2001 intentional introduction of disease must also be considered. Biosecurity protocols on the farm and during transport are now more important than ever.

Biosecurity Protocols

All livestock can be affected by a loss of biosecurity. The swine and poultry industries have had biosecurity protocols in place for many years and with good effect. Effective biosecurity protocols allow large-scale intensive production to occur on a single site. Good sanitation for the new-born, for example, is an important biosecurity protocol. The cattle and dairy industries have shown less interest in biosecurity but every year there are instances of diseases that could have been prevented with effective biosecurity protocols. For example, neonatal diarrhea in new-born beef calves is a common result of poor sanitation and of introducing pathogens from outside sources in replacement calves.

Biosecurity and Disease Prevention

Livestock producers need to be concerned about two major types of disease. Most producers are very familiar with the so-called "production limiting diseases", which include most of the respiratory diseases and many types of enteritis. The other major type of disease is the "catastrophic" or named disease such as foot and mouth disease, swine fever or Newcastle disease. Control of these diseases is usually with the federal government at the national level by providing the lead role.

What to Do

Biosecurity is a "mindset" or "philosophy" that must be developed by producers. It is an approach to animal husbandry that has a focus on maintaining or improving the health status of their animals and preventing the introduction of new disease pathogens by assessing all possible risks to animal health. The biosecurity mindset must ultimately maintain itself as tangible measures (e.g., locks on gates, showers, disinfection points, policies, protocols and tables of downtimes). Always consider the question, "What would I do if something goes wrong?"

Disease Transmission in Livestock

The most common method of disease transmission is by contact of a susceptible animal with an infected animal. This can occur within the herd or from herd to herd by the introduction of new livestock. Other methods of disease transmission include:

  • Aerosol spread can spread respiratory disease but also foot and mouth disease can easily spread over short distances by aerosol spread.
  • Rodents, domestic and other wild animals can spread diseases such as Leptospira and Salmonella.
  • Flies, mosquitoes and ticks can transmit a wide variety of diseases when they are endemic within a production area.
  • Feed, vehicles, visitors and other inputs are all capable of transmitting disease to the livestock herd. This method of disease transmission is not considered serious but any manure on boots or clothing coming from an unknown source could be a threat.

Implementing Biosecurity

  • Know where new and replacement animals are coming from and if in doubt quarantine them before introduction into the herd. Make sure they will be compatible with the existing herd.
  • Follow a protocol for the introduction of new animals into the herd as recommended by your veterinarian.
  • Follow programs of rodent control and other wild animals on your premises.
  • Control insects to the extent possible within the herd.
  • Evaluate all feed inputs, vehicles and visitors for biosecurity. Consider the front gate of the farm your control point for the entry of disease.
  • Develop protocols for all visitors such as providing boots, clothing, showers and disinfectant foot baths for them. 



For more information, or if you suspect any animal health related concerns, please contact the Chief Veterinary Office or call 204-945-7663 in Winnipeg.