Multi-Actor Farm Health Team: Case Study Report

Read summaries of the experiences from 30 of our case study farms that used the Multi-Actor Farm Health Team approach.

Multi-Actor Farm Health Team – 30 case studies

Assessing Biosecurity with Biocheck


Biosecurity measures help to prevent the entry and spread of infectious diseases on farms. Good biosecurity can help improve animal health and productivity and prevent costly disease outbreaks on farms. As such, biosecurity is the basis for disease prevention on farms. Still it can be a matter of subjective judgement whether measures taken are sufficient or need extra effort. In the past, this subjective evaluation also made it hard for setting concrete targets and monitoring improvement in biosecurity measures. Luckily, this problem has been solved with the arrival of Biocheck, an objective and risk based scoring system to assess biosecurity on pig, broiler, layer, veal, dairy and beef farms. The systems is based on cutting edge scientific research and developed by the faculty of veterinary medicine of Ghent University.

This biosecurity scoring system takes into account the 5 general principles of biosecurity:

  1.  Separation of infected and susceptible animals by avoiding any direct and indirect contact between them
    This means taking adequate and consistent measures to prevent transferring pathogens from infected animals to healthy susceptible ones
    Think of installing a good quarantine protocol before entering purchased animals to your herd, optimize working lines and changing clothwear and shoeing and other measures to compartmentalize groups of animals on the farm.
  2. Not every transmission route of pathogens is equally important. 
    The biocheck scoring system takes into account a gradation in importance of different pathways animal can become infected with pathogens. For example, measures that prevent direct contact between susceptible and infectious animals are much more important than measures that prevent potential transmission of pathogens through animal feed or breath of persons in the stable.  Questions in the Biocheck, referring to these different transmission pathways have been attributed proper weights for the final score based on scientific research.
  3. Reduction of the general infection pressure
    Sterile production facilities are impossible to achieve, luckily however, animals’ immune system can cope with some degree of infection pressure. Biosecurity measures therefore should target to achieve a general reduced burden on the animals natural defence systems to let them thrive. Measures to think of are: thorough cleaning and disinfection of facilities and adequate down time of stables or vaccination.
  4. Size matters
    With increasing farm size, risks for disease entering the farm increase as well as the detrimental effects of a disease outbreak. It does not mean that small farms should not pay attention to biosecurity, but the negative impact on large farms will just be bigger.
  5. Frequency matters
    Related to the previous principle, an event with a rather small chance of transmitting disease into your farm or between the animals on the farm can cumulate into a considerable risk if the event gets repeated often enough. For example the chance that a single external visitor or a sigle feed delivery truck is the transmitter of disease might be small but if your farm receives external visitors or feed on a weekly basis this chance can cumulate into a considerable risk for disease entering your farm. Therefore, Biocheck will assess measures to prevent for examples visitors or feed trucks to infect your animals and will take into account the frequency of these events.

Advantages of Biocheck


  1. Biocheck assesses the farm’s biosecurity in general and not only for one specific disease.
  2. Your farm gets an overall score for its biosecurity level as well as more detailed score for both external and internal biosecurity. Moreover more detailed scores for the aspects that make up the score for internal and external biosecurity are presented as well. Within a blink of an eye you can identify the aspects of the farm that can be improved for better biosecurity.
  3. The basic version: scoring list and links to additional info on biosecurity is free of charge.
  4. It is ideal for benchmarking. The Biocheck score sheet provides a comparison for your farm with those of colleague farmers in your country and worldwide. Moreover, under the expert license (not for free) you have additional options to design your own benchmark, visualize progress over time and access e-learnings to improve biosecurity further.
  5. It is available for  all pig farms: farrowing, farrow-to-finish or finishing pig farms, poultry farms: broilers and layers, dairy and beef and veal farms.

How to use Biocheck

The use of biocheck was explained by prof. Jeroen Dewulf in the webinar: Principles of Biosecurity and use of Biocheck
From minutes 10:55 onwards the use of Biocheck is being explained.

To use the free version of Biocheck go to: 

In the right top corner you can set the language to English, Dutch, French, Spanish or Chinese.

It is advisory to register your profile by clicking on the My Biocheck button. This way you will be able to save all your reports and look them up later.

Detailed instructions for the website can be found with button instructions in the right lower corner.

To start the assessment click on “Start the Biocheck.ugent”

Pick your the survey for the type of farm you want to evaluate.

It is advisory to print a printable version of the survey and take it with you along a tour over the farm.
The routines you will follow to enter the farm, (registration, change of clothes and shoeing, showering, walking lines, etc. will already provide you with answers to several questions in the survey.

After the farm tour you can take the paper survey to your office and complete the survey online to obtain the scoring sheet.

minutes 10:55 in webinar

Go to


Research Priorities Report: The Multi Actor Farm Health Team Approach



This report focuses on the experiences of DISARM partners who set up and coached Multi-Actor Farm Health Teams (MAFHTs) across 9 countries. The Netherlands and Spain focused on pig farms, Belgium and Latvia on poultry farms, the UK, Romania and Denmark on dairy farms and France and Greece on dairy sheep.

The report outlines what worked well and the challenges experienced with regards to implementing the MAFHT approach, and how likely that these approaches could be embedded into mainstream advisory/regulatory systems. These insights highlighted vast differences in the approaches taken by different EU Member States.

Key areas for further research, funding and regulation include:

  • Country-specific analysis of how the MAFHT approach and coaching could be better integrated into regulatory requirements and/or advisory services for livestock farming.
  • Conducting cost-benefit analyses to establish strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, as well as tangible financial and animal health performance data resulting from participation in a MAFHT approach.
  • Further investment in, and development of, user-friendly data recording/monitoring systems for use at the farm-level to offer useful insights for farm businesses, benchmarking and health planning whilst also meeting regulatory requirements.
  • The development and provision of facilitation/coaching training to ensure sufficient workforce to support an increased demand for MAFHT approaches.
  • In addition, business models for how to make MAFHT approaches viable if driven by regulatory authorities, advisory services, or farm businesses are needed to establish the sustainability of the approach.

517 The participatory support approach applied to biosecurity in poultry farming : Teaching of an “initial diagnosis” step (Research report; Rousset, et al. 2020)



517 Research report – ROUSSET N., SCOIZEC A., CADET M., KOULETE E., LE BOUQUIN S., BOUDET S., KLING-EVEILLARD F. – 2020 – The participatory support approach applied to biosecurity in poult

517 Research report
The participatory support approach applied to biosecurity in poultry farming :Teaching of an “initial diagnosis” step
In Significant Impact Groups: Biosecurity
Species targeted: Poultry;
Summary: The participatory support approach applied to biosecurity in poultry farming :Teaching of an “initial diagnosis” stepA reinforcement of legislation occurred recently to allow an overall increase in the sanitary control of the French poultry sector.The poultry keepers have to apply strictly biosecurity measures, but difficulties in compliance persist. Now, the prescriptive and/or regulatory approach seems to have certain limitations. The project PartAge aims to test an alternative approach using participatory methods. This project is articulated in three phases: “initial diagnosis”, “progression”, “assessment”. Each phase is composed of two steps: qualitative individual interviews and a participatory meeting. The results of the interviews in the first step, indicate that most of farmers perceive biosecurity measures as a professional standard, although the term “biosecurity” may have negative connotations for some. Nevertheless, some farmers tends do relativize the effectiveness of certain kind of measures. The participatory meetings seem interesting to mobilize in order to remove certain technical and practical obstacles,or to change negative attitudes, by promoting the transfer of knowledge s , the sharing of experience and opinions between peers or with other actors in the sector. An overall qualitative evaluation of the impact of this approach will be conducted at the end of the project.
517 Research report – ROUSSET N., SCOIZEC A., CADET M., KOULETE E., LE BOUQUIN S., BOUDET S., KLING-EVEILLARD F. – 2020 – The participatory support approach applied to biosecurity in poultry farming :Teaching of an “initial diagnosis” step;

Country: FR

Facilitation and farmer-led approaches to changing practices


Changing people’s behaviour and practices on farm is challenging. Historically, this has been largely achieved through top-down approaches, such as legislation, regulation and penalties. Advisor-led programmes are also topdown in nature as they transfer knowledge in a one-way manner from position of expert to ‘lay’ person. There is often little consideration and inclusion of the farmers views and ideas. Top-down approaches have been shown to lack the impact needed to transform farming practices in response to increasing environmental, social and economic challenges facing the industry. 

Bottom-up ways of working that adopt a more farmer-led approach are a potential solution. Facilitating these farmer-led approaches is a skill many advisors are not familiar or trained in. A recent UK study explored how such an approach helped change practices around antimicrobial use on UK dairy farms. 5 facilitated farmer action groups were established and followed over 2.5 years and assessed to see what impact they had. Facilitators helped mobilise the knowledge in the groups and identified knowledge gaps farmers needed help with. They fostered a sense of solidarity between participants that improved confidence and capabilities to make changes to practices. There was a shift away from critically important antibiotics (the majority reduced use after one yearand each farm co-created an Action Plan of practical steps to reduce reliance on antibiotics with a holistic focus on the whole farm system.

Every farm participant changed at least one thing within a year, with >80% implementing over a third of their Action Plan within 12months. The facilitators were a pivotal part of the approach and a key recommendation is to train vets in facilitation.  

WEBINAR: International DISARM workshop

On the 3rd of December 2019, DISARM organised an international workshop at Copa-Cogeca, Brussels.

This workshop was all about DISARM: what is project DISARM? What do the Farm Animal Health Teams mean, and how do you become a member of the Community of Practice?
The workshop ended with a lively panel discussion.

Farm Factsheets

Here you can find some short introductions to the farms involved in our farm health teams. We share a brief summary of the farm, the main health challenges they aim to work on, outcomes of the intitial Biocheck® assessment and the goals for their Farm Health Action Plan.

Grard van Gerwe, Pig Farm, The Netherlands

Stefaan Stuer, Broiler Farm East-Flanders (EN)

Stefaan Stuer, Broiler Farm East-Flanders (NL)

Koronas Bros, Sheep Farm, Greece

Kalogeropoulos Bros, Sheep Farm, Greece

Flessas Bros, Sheep Farm, Greece

WEBINAR: Optimising animal health in pig farming (in Dutch)

On Monday 7th September, ZLTO organised a webinar on the coaching process as part of the project Optimising Animal Health in Pig Farming.

Antoon Sanders talked about the project he is coaching with pig farmers, feed consultants and veterinarians. He also shared practical experiences.

Are you interested in being coached in the autumn of 2020 in The Netherlands? Then contact Heleen Prinsen or Annick Spaans from ZLTO.

Find out more here

WEBINAR: Facilitating change with small groups

Want to know more about facilitation?


Lisa Morgans, from Innovation for Agriculture in the UK, hosts an interactive webinar about facilitating change with small groups. She covers:

  1. The need for facilitation
  2. What makes a good facilitator
  3. Understanding your group
  4. Planning and delivering successful workshops
  5. The facilitation toolbox and communication strategies

The webinar concludes with a Q&A session. If you would like more information about facilitation, please get in touch.