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Assessing the impact of tailored biosecurity advice on farmer behaviour and pathogen presence in beef herds in England and Wales

Cardwell, J M; Van Winden, S C L; Beauvais, W; Mastin, A; De Glanville, W A; Hardstaff, J; Booth, R E; Fishwick, J; Pfeiffer, D U


J M Cardwell

S C L Van Winden

W Beauvais

A Mastin

W A De Glanville

J Hardstaff

R E Booth

J Fishwick

D U Pfeiffer


The term ‘biosecurity’ encompasses many measures farmers can take to reduce the risk of pathogen incursion or spread. As the best strategy will vary between settings, veterinarians play an important role in assessing risk and providing advice, but effectiveness requires farmer acceptance and implementation. The aim of this study was to assess the effectiveness of specifically-tailored biosecurity advice packages in reducing endemic pathogen presence on UK beef suckler farms. One hundred and sixteen farms recruited by 10 veterinary practices were followed for three years. Farms were randomly allocated to intervention (receiving specifically-tailored advice, with veterinarians and farmers collaborating to develop an improved biosecurity strategy) or control (receiving general advice) groups. A spreadsheet-based tool was used annually to attribute a score to each farm reflecting risk of entry or spread of bovine viral diarrhoea virus (BVDV), bovine herpesvirus-1 (BHV1), Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis (MAP), Leptospira interrogans serovar hardjo (L. hardjo) and Mycobacterium bovis (M. bovis). Objectives of these analyses were to identify evidence of reduction in risk behaviours during the study, as well as evidence of reductions in pathogen presence, as indications of effectiveness. Risk behaviours and pathogen prevalences were examined across study years, and on intervention compared with control farms, using descriptive statistics and multilevel regression. There were significant reductions in risk scores for all five pathogens, regardless of intervention status, in every study year compared with the outset. Animals on intervention farms were significantly less likely than those on control farms to be seropositive for BVDV in years 2 and 3 and for L. hardjo in year 3 of the study. Variations by study year in animal-level odds of seropositivity to BHV1 or MAP were not associated with farm intervention status. All farms had significantly reduced odds of BHV1 seropositivity in year 2 than at the outset. Variations in farm-level MAP seropositivity were not associated with intervention status. There were increased odds of M. bovis on intervention farms compared with control farms at the end of the study. Results suggest a structured annual risk assessment process, conducted as a collaboration between veterinarian and farmer, is valuable in encouraging improved biosecurity practices. There were some indications, but not conclusive evidence, that tailored biosecurity advice packages have potential to reduce pathogen presence. These findings will inform development of a collaborative approach to biosecurity between veterinarians and farmers, including adoption of cost-effective strategies effective across pathogens.


Cardwell, J. M., Van Winden, S. C. L., Beauvais, W., Mastin, A., De Glanville, W. A., Hardstaff, J., …Pfeiffer, D. U. (2016). Assessing the impact of tailored biosecurity advice on farmer behaviour and pathogen presence in beef herds in England and Wales. Preventive Veterinary Medicine, 135, 9-16.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Oct 24, 2016
Publication Date Dec 1, 2016
Deposit Date Nov 5, 2016
Publicly Available Date Nov 5, 2016
Print ISSN 0167-5877
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 135
Pages 9-16
Public URL