The value of on-farm biosecurity for the Australian beef producer

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Australia is the second-highest global exporter of beef products, with a reputation as a high-quality producer due to relative freedom from disease. While pre- and border security maintains Australia’s desirable disease status, exotic disease incursions are inevitable and so, post-border measures at the farm level are an important component of Australia’s biosecurity system. The on-farm biosecurity behaviours of Australian beef producers are inconsistent between farms with little evidence that current incentives are improving biosecurity standards industry-wide. Most current programs to promote adherence to on-farm biosecurity standards are based on improving knowledge and providing financial incentives for compliance. However, this assumes that motivations for on-farm management of disease are uniform for all beef farmers. Behavioural economics suggests that ‘values’ influence decision behaviour as much as knowledge and rules yet are not reflected in current biosecurity programs. Therefore, the main objective of this thesis is to explore the role of values on the on-farm biosecurity behaviours of Australian beef producers, to guide for future biosecurity education strategies.
Farmers are more likely to engage with education strategies if deemed relevant to the day-to-day operation of their farm. As such, an individual-based stochastic simulation model of bovine viral diarrhoea virus (BVDV), the second-most economically important infectious endemic disease in Australia, was developed to determine the assigned value of on-farm biosecurity at the individual farm level. With a self-elimination time of 4–6 years, timing of BVDV introduction and re-introduction of BVDV was found to influence long-term production outcomes. As such, the economic value of on-farm biosecurity varied based on the risk of disease introduction and the disease status of the herd.
The assigned value of biosecurity was also dependent on non-economic outcomes, which justified the need to investigate the value relationship between farmer decisions and biosecurity trade-offs using multi-criteria decision analysis (MCDA). Preference scoring collected for the MCDA process revealed that farmers favoured biosecurity practices that preserved the on-farm health and production outcomes of cattle. Semi-structured interviews explored these findings qualitatively, to determine motivations associated with biosecurity behaviours using the ten basic held values as a framework.
The values that related to biosecurity behaviours were predominantly self-transcendent, suggesting that collaboration between industry and the individual farmer is achievable. The threat of a foot-and-mouth disease incursion from the Australia’s northern neighbours emphasises the importance of this relationship. Current discussions regarding the benefits of on-farm biosecurity seem to be purely economic; however, social and non-economic factors like environmental sustainability were important to the farmers participating in this thesis. As such, stakeholders should be mindful of the values motivating individual producers’ behaviour before investing resources into biosecurity messaging. The outcomes of this thesis demonstrate the merits of the values-framework, which until now, has never been applied to agriculture. However, meaningful application of these concepts would require further research into the biosecurity behaviours and motivations of producers across the greater Australian beef industry. This would facilitate reliable, widespread adoption of on-farm biosecurity, bolstering Australia’s biosecurity efforts to limit the risks associated with endemic and emerging diseases.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Charles Sturt University
  • Hernandez-Jover, Marta, Principal Supervisor
  • Manyweathers, Jennifer, Co-Supervisor
  • Brookes, Victoria, Co-Supervisor, External person
Place of PublicationAustralia
Publication statusPublished - 2023


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