The past few years have been challenging to say the least – across every industry. There have been catastrophic impacts, and devastating losses. And we must use every difficulty encountered as a learning opportunity and as a chance to grow.
While there are many things that we can take from the situation over the past couple of years there are two crucial lessons that have been learnt across agriculture:
1. Expect the unexpected
2. Be prepared
And it’s these two lessons that are set to shape the future of livestock biosecurity.
Lesson 1: Expect the unexpected
Disease in farming is certainly not new. The prevalence of it, however, is on the increase. Notifiable diseases in poultry farms both in the UK and across the globe, have a new severity recently, and with the ever looming threat of African Swine Fever reaching UK shores as it spreads through Europe, pig farmers must also be wary.
Consider, for example, that more than 77 million birds were lost in 3,000 global avian influenza outbreaks between October 2021 and May 2022 alone. Consider that African Swine Fever is continuing to grow steadily, and that non-notifiable diseases such as salmonellosis and campylobacteriosis are being seen more frequently.
And not only is disease more prevalent, it’s also spreading quicker.
This is because farmers are facing more and more challenges.
Overcrowding on farms, for example, is a very real threat today due to reduced operations at processing plants. In the UK, it’s estimated that there are 15,000 meat processing vacancies. Coupled with new restrictions on mass preventative treatments, rising costs which are tempting farmers to cut corners, and challenges in hiring which are leaving farms understaffed, disease is spreading more easily.
The situation is unexpected and unanticipated. But today, it’s our reality.
Lesson 2: Be more prepared
As we can see from lesson one, disease is more prevalent. And we must learn to expect situations that don’t always seem likely. Lesson two, however, is about learning to be more prepared to handle the unexpected, whatever that may be.
The problem, as it stands today, is not only that disease is more prevalent, but that it’s occurring year round. Traditionally, farmers would prepare for disease in the run up to high risk periods – typically during the winter months. But now, patterns of transmission are not as black and white; there’s an ever-growing grey area, and disease is being identified in agricultural environments throughout the entire year.
There are three serious concerns with this:
- Firstly, it’s vital to maintain best practices year round – something which isn’t always the case. A Government report, for example, concluded that while some measures are kept in place consistently, others – such as boot dipping – happen more sporadically.
- Secondly, while cleaning processes are generally considered to be good, they are just one part of a comprehensive protection plan. Many other elements of protection, such as sign in sheets, occur only when required by APHA zone rules.
- Thirdly, although many farms do have contingency plans, it appears that many of these plans have not been updated in response to the growing challenges and risks. Contingency plans have now been thoroughly ‘exhausted’ according to PigWorld.
Being ill-prepared to handle the unexpected is having significant consequences across the industry. When farmers are not able to expect the unexpected, or prepare for what’s around the corner, they’re going to suffer losses. And that’s exactly what’s happening.
Shaping the Future of Biosecurity
Considering both lessons together will be key to building the future of livestock biosecurity. With increased disease prevalence, easier transmission, new challenges, and year-round risk, it’s clear that the approach many farmers have been taking won’t be enough in tomorrow’s landscape. To create a well-protected farm and maximise animal welfare, a fully comprehensive approach will be needed.
A comprehensive approach combines two distinct aspects:
- exciting new innovations and
- core protective processes
Livetec are supporting the future of livestock biosecurity
At Livetec, we fully believe that there is much more to come in terms of biosecurity innovation. There’s still lots to be seen, and this will come as the UK Government continues to invest in zoonotic disease research. We’re excited to see what’s next, and we’re constantly adapting our products and services in line with the latest scientific research, providing our clients with the most advanced solutions yet.
However, we also understand that there’s power to be seen in getting back to basics. With new research and solutions, core biosecurity processes at primary, secondary, and tertiary level often get overlooked. Yet they’re critical to keeping animals safe, keeping workers safe, and maintaining continuity across the farm.
And so, the future of livestock biosecurity is twofold. We expect to see a renewed focus on core proactive, preventive measures to reduce the likelihood of an outbreak. Yet we also expect to see the introduction of new processes, new ways of working, and new solutions that will help us better tackle what’s lurking around the corner. Together, these two approaches will ensure farmers are best prepared. We are here to help. Our science-backed solutions and expert guidance are already being used by farmers around the country to future proof their farm businesses, protect their livestock and their livelihoods. Contact us now to find out more.