Instructive training on biosecurity and application of Biocheck: a risk-based scoring tool for biosecurity on livestock farms

On 22 and 23 of January 2020, the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine of Ghent University hosted a very instructive and interesting training on biosecurity and the use of their Biocheck, a tool to score and benchmark the biosecurity measures on livestock farms. The training nicely balanced theoretical insights with hands-on practical training and field visits to a farrowing and broiler farm to exercise the use of the Biocheck.

Five principles to biosecurity

Prof. Jeroen Dewulf, head of the chair on epidemiology started the training with a lecture on the five main principles of biosecurity and practical examples to illustrate and respect these principles in order to prevent disease from entering the farm and spread within it. The principles being:

  1. Preventing direct and indirect contact between potentially infectious and susceptible animals
  2. Not every route of transmission is equally important, so not every biosecurity measure is equally effective
  3. Lower the general infection pressure on the farm to lower the burden on the immune system of the animals
  4. Size matters meaning that although biosecurity is important on every farm, on larger farms the risk and negative consequences of disease outbreaks will be much larger and harder to contain than on smaller farms.
  5. Frequency matters: the frequency of events or actions happening on the farm determine the risks. An event or action (e.g. feed truck delivering feed) with a low probability of infecting the farm per visit can pose a substantial risk for the farm when it reoccurs frequently.

Next, prof. Dewulf explained these principles and suitable external and internal biosecurity measures in more detail with practical examples for pig production.

Scoring and benchmarking biosecurity with Biocheck

The final theoretical part of the first day was focused on the UGhent’s Biocheck. This innovative risk-based scoring system can elevate the European livestock sectors’ biosecurity status since it is the first system to quantitatively score and benchmark the biosecurity of farms in pig, poultry, dairy, beef and veal production. The checklist evaluates the farm’s biosecurity measures and takes into account the relative risks of different infection transmission routes resulting in an overall biosecurity score out of a 100 for the farm as well as detailed scores for external and internal biosecurity separately. The highest detail of scoring offers farmers and vets immediate insight into measures to improve within both the domains of external and internal biosecurity.

In the afternoon, the theory on biosecurity in general and the use of the Biocheck was nicely illustrated with a visit to a farrowing farm of a thousand sows and being a text book example of managing biosecurity in pig production. Here participants got the chance to exercise in evaluating a farms’ biosecurity status by use of the Biocheck.

Day 2: Focus on poultry production

The second day of training was focused on biosecurity in poultry and especially broiler production. D r Nele Caekebeke focused first on specific biosecurity aspects in poultry production, after which the participants had to exercise in designing and improving biosecurity measures on specific broiler farms.

The poultry training was finalized with another field visit to an integrated broiler farm where the participants could practice the Biocheck scoring in broiler production.

Get in touch to find out more about biosecurity training

If you are interested in the Biocheck scoring system, or would like to participate in or organise similar training in scoring and improving biosecurity measures, please get in touch with Prof. Jeroen Dewulf.