Biosecurity Issues on the Farm

What is Biosecurity in Agriculture?

Biosecurity in agriculture refers to the variety of measures that are implemented to keep both humans and animals on a farm healthy. The ultimate goal is to reduce the introduction and spread of infectious disease pathogens.


How Can I Calculate My Farm’s Biosecurity Risk?

Assessing your farm’s biosecurity risk can be complex. Factors that go into biosecurity risk include the existing prevalence of a given pathogen in your herd, the number and location of all susceptible animals, and the odds that new infections will happen.

 New infections can hit your herd or flock after an animal comes in direct contact with another that is infected, or when introducing new animals to your farm. Ensuring a strict risk assessment procedure is in place when adding to your farm is essential to the biosecurity of it.


How Can I Lower My Biosecurity Risk?

Agricultural biosecurity experts have agreed on several standard measures to reduce risks. There are varied risk levels depending on the size of your farm, number of visitors, transportation methods, and more.


Table 1. Visitors to a Farm (Veterinarians, Ag Service Personnel, Visitors and Neighbors)

Risk Concern

Low Risk

Moderate Risk

High Risk

Number of farm visits per day

One farm, little or no animal contact.

Occasionally visits more than one farm per day. Minimal animal contact.

Visits many farms or auctions. Significant animal contact.

Protective clothing

Wears clean & sanitized shoes or boots. One pair of coveralls per site.

Wears sanitized boots and clean coveralls. If clean may not change coveralls.

Does not wear protective clothing, or uses the same clothing between farms.

Leaves materials or borrows supplies

Materials and supplies away from animal or feed areas.

Materials and supplies in areas of minimal animal or feed contact areas.

Materials and supplies may be left in animal or feed contact areas.

Animal ownership

Does not own similar species at home.

Similar species but a different production type.

Owns and/or cares for a similar species and production type at home.

Contact with potentially infected animals

Minimal or no contact with potentially infected animals.

Contact with healthy animals and avoids contact with potentially infected animals.

May own or be exposed to many animals of unknown health status.

Work in animal contact areas

Does not work in areas with highly susceptible animals.

Minimal exposure to high risk animals and only with protective clothing.

Works with highly susceptible animals. Little precautions.

Biosecurity knowledge

Understands and promotes biosecurity for industry.

Aware of biosecurity principles but is not an advocate.

Little appreciation for biosecurity and does not view it as an industry issue.

Foreign Travel

Does not travel out of the US or Canada.

Limited travel outside of US or Canada without animal contact.

Travel to foreign countries with animal contact in those countries.

Foreign Visitors

Prohibits foreign visitor contact with animals or feeds.

Foreign visitors may be in animal or feed areas after adequate quarantine.

Visitors are permitted in animal or feed contact areas without screening or quarantine.


Table 2. Other Animals – Livestock Exhibitions and Purchased Animals

Risk Concern

Low Risk

Moderate Risk

High Risk

Purchased animals

Screening tests and quarantine for 30+ days after purchase.

Minimal screening; quarantine for only 15-30 days.

No screening; no quarantine or <15 days.

Protective outer clothing

Clothing and boots worn on home farm and not worn to different farms or animal events.

Clean clothing and disposable boots or sanitized boots.

Clothing or boots worn on home farm and also worn to different animal events.


Timely, comprehensive plan coordinated with veterinarian.

Immunization based on show regulations but not necessarily part of total plan.

Haphazard immunization plan that is not coordinated nor professionally supervised.

Animal transportation

Haul own animals only in your trailer or truck.

Haul animals in another’s truck or trailer that has been cleaned or sanitized.

Haul animals in another’s truck or trailer without sanitation.

Equipment at exhibition or sale

Only use grooming, feeding or watering equipment for your animals.

Clean equipment before sharing.

Equipment shared without cleaning or sanitation.

Contact of public with animals

Prohibit people from petting and feeding of your animals.

Allow petting but discourage people from feeding your animals.

Allow public to pet and/or feed animals.

Isolation after exhibition

Isolate for 15 days after exhibition.

Isolate for >7 days but <15 days after exhibition.

Isolate for <7 days after exhibition.

Prepared by Drs. Ernest Hovingh, Bhushan Jayarao, Robert Van Saun, David Wolfgang and Lawrence Hutchinson; Veterinary Extension & Applied Reserach Team, Department of Veterinary & Biomedical Sciences via Penn State Extension.


Interested in learning more? We can help you identify and reduce your biosecurity risks on your farm. Contact us today!