The right strategy for you: Using the preferences of beef farmers to guide biosecurity recommendations for on-farm management of endemic disease

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Effective on-farm biosecurity measures are crucial to the post-border protection of emerging agricultural diseases and are the foundation of endemic disease control. Implementation of on-farm biosecurity measures are contingent on the priorities of individual producers, which can often be neglected for other aspects of the farming enterprise. The on-farm approach to prevention of endemic diseases, like bovine viral diarrhoea virus (BVDV), is inconsistent between farms and it is not realistic to assume that farmers take an entirely normative approach to on-farm decision making. Multi-criteria decision analysis (MCDA) has been used for disease prioritisation and national disease control in human and animal health; however, it is yet to be used as a decision tool for disease control at the farm level. This study used MCDA to determine the most appropriate biosecurity combinations for management of BVDV, based on the preferences of Australian beef producers. Beef producer preferences were obtained from an online survey using indirect collection methods. Point of truth calibration was used to aggregate producer preferences and the performance scores of 23 biosecurity combinations for control of BVDV based on four main criteria: the probability of BVDV introduction, the on-farm impact of BVDV, the off-farm impact of BVDV and the annual input cost of the practice. The MCDA found that biosecurity combinations that included “double-fencing farm boundaries” used in conjunction with “vaccination against BVDV” were most appropriate for management of BVDV in an initially naïve, self-replacing seasonal single-calving beef herd over a 15-year period. Beef producers prioritised practices that preserved the on-farm health of their cattle more than any other criteria, a finding that was persistent regardless of demographic or farming type. Consequently, combinations with “vaccination against BVDV” were consistently ranked higher than those that included “strategic exposure of a persistently infected cow,” which is sometimes used by Australian beef producers instead of vaccination. Findings of this study indicate that the benefits of “double-fencing farm boundaries” and “vaccination against BVDV” outweigh the relatively high cost associated with these practices based on the priorities of the Australian beef producer and may be used to demonstrate the benefits of on-farm biosecurity during discussions between livestock veterinarians and beef farmers.
Original languageEnglish
Article number105813
Number of pages13
JournalPreventive Veterinary Medicine
Early online date30 Nov 2022
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2023


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