One size does not fit all: Exploring the economic and non-economic outcomes of on-farm biosecurity for bovine viral diarrhoea virus in Australian beef production

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Bovine viral diarrhoea virus (BVDV) is a disease of global importance, affecting the production and welfare of cattle enterprises through poor reproductive performance and calf mortality. In Australia, the prevention of BVDV introduction and spread is primarily achieved with on-farm biosecurity; however, the use of these practices can vary amongst producers. Economic utility is commonly identified as a contributor to the uptake of on-farm biosecurity, but other factors such as animal welfare, producer priorities and introduction risk also influence farmer behaviour. This study uses an individual-based, stochastic simulation model to examine the economic and non-economic value of 23 on-farm biosecurity combinations for the control of BVDV in Australian beef farms without (N0) and with (N1) a neighbouring population of persistently infected (PI) cattle. Combinations of quarantine of purchased bulls (Q), hygiene during herd health events (H), double-fencing adjacent boundaries with neighbouring farms (F) and vaccination against BVDV (V) were tested. This study is the first to simulate the use of strategic PI exposure (PI) as an alternative to V, a contentious practice performed by some Australian beef farmers. Introduction of BVDV into a naïve 300-breeder self-replacing beef herd was achieved through the purchase of PI bulls (N0 and N1 herds) and over-the-fence contact with neighbouring PI animals (N1 herds only). The predicted median cumulative loss due to BVDV over a 15-year period was AUD$172/breeder and AUD$453/breeder for an N0 and N1 herd, respectively. Early establishment of BVDV in the simulation period was found to be the primary factor contributing to economic loss. Consequently, the Q and QF combinations resulted in the highest predicted average annual cost-benefit for BVDV-free N0 and N1 herds. In the five years following establishment of BVDV, use of QP (N0 herds) and V (N1 herds) combinations were most cost-effective. Combinations that involved V and P (in conjunction with F in N1 herds) also resulted in the lowest number of PI animals sold to other farms or feedlots over the simulation period. However, in both N0 and N1 herds, P resulted in the highest number of infected cattle, which has implications for poor animal welfare and increased antimicrobial use on Australian beef farms. The outcomes reported in this study can guide decisions to prevent BVDV introduction and spread on extensive beef farms using on-farm biosecurity, based on the risk of BVDV exposure and the priorities of the individual farmer.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105758
Number of pages14
JournalPreventive Veterinary Medicine
Early online date13 Sept 2022
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2022


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