2015 | by Prof Dominiek Maes | Print Article

The importance of on-farm biosecurity

In most pig and poultry farms in Europe animals are raised under intensive conditions, with large numbers of animals housed on the same site and/or sharing the same airspace. Producers try to optimise management, nutrition and housing to attain production targets. However, on many farms, animal health, welfare, and also production, may suffer because of various infectious and/or non-infectious challenges. 

The PROHEALTH project aims to improve understanding of different production diseases in pigs and poultry kept in intensive systems across the EU and what makes such diseases thrive. 

To achieve this, members of Ghent University developed online scoring tools to assess biosecurity on pig and poultry farms. As well as being used in the PROHEALTH project, the tools could also be used by any farm manager to improve the on-farm internal and external biosecurity. They can be used to highlight weaknesses (e.g. improper stocking density in nursery pigs, insufficient health monitoring of purchased breeding animals, lack of disinfection after emptying the stables) and to open up discussion with everyone involved at farm level. This could help, for instance, to address the current porcine epidemic diarrhoea (PED) outbreak in Europe.

How do the PROHEALTH online scoring tools work?

The online scoring tools are species-specific and have been developed in order to score practices in an objective and standardised way across Europe. The questionnaires combine previous Ghent University experiences and PROHEALTH partners’ insights. Within the project, the online tool will be used in different EU countries to score management and biosecurity practices, and to assess risk factors for production diseases in pig and poultry farms.

The questionnaires are divided into a number of subcategories, each containing questions related to specific aspects of management and biosecurity. These are translated into scores based upon their relative importance in disease prevention. The final score for a herd may vary between 0 (worst) and 100 (best). When the responses are complete, a visual report is generated (see figure).

The online scoring tools can be accessed through the following links:

http://www.rohh.ugent.be/limesurvey/index.php/981521/lang/en (broilers)
http://www.rohh.ugent.be/limesurvey/index.php/519199/lang-en  (laying hens)
https://www.survey.ugent.be/lime/index.php/999926/lang-en (pigs)

Figure 1



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