Biosecurity, a key tool to minimize the use of antibiotics

Biosecurity is the basis of all disease prevention programs and even more important in the scenarios of antibiotic reduction.

It includes the combination of all measures taken to reduce the risk of introduction and spread of disease and is based on prevention and protection against infectious agents. Its foundation is the knowledge of disease transmission processes.

The application of high biosecurity standards can substantially contribute to the reduction of antimicrobial resistance, not only by preventing the introduction of resistance genes on the farm, but also by reducing the need for the use of antimicrobials.

Reduced use of antimicrobials with increased biosecurity

Studies and evaluations link high biosafety or improved biosafety to lower use (Laanen, et al., 2013; Gelaude, et al., 2014; Postma, et al., 2016; Collineau, et al., 2017).

Laanen, Postma and Collineau studied the profile of pig producers in different European countries, finding a relationship between a high level of internal biosecurity, efficient control of infectious diseases and reduced need for antimicrobials.

The interventions in biosecurity

The interventions needed to achieve a higher level of biosafety carry some costs.

However, interventions, especially if taken with other measures such as improved management of newborn animals and nutritional improvements, also improve productivity.

The same studies that report that improvements in biosecurity decrease antimicrobial use also report improved animal performance. Collineau (2017) had an improvement during the pre-breeding and fattening period of 0.7 and 0.9 percent points, respectively.

Implementation, application and execution

Although biosecurity is considered the cheapest and most effective intervention in antibiotic reduction programmes, compliance is often low and difficult.

The implementation of any biosecurity programme involves adopting a set of attitudes and behaviours to reduce the risk of entry and spread of disease in all activities related to animal production or care.

Measures should not be limitations, but part of a process to improve animal and human health, and part of a holistic approach to reducing antibiotics and improving performance.

Designing effective biosecurity programmes

When designing or evaluating biosafety programmes, five principles can be identified to be applied. These principles provide the basis for considering and evaluating biosecurity interventions:

1. Separation: Know your enemy, but don’t keep him close.

It is vital to have good separation between animals or high and low risk areas on the farm, as well as dirty (general traffic) and clean (internal movements) areas on the farm.

This prevents not only the entry, but also the spread of the disease, as possible sources of infection (e.g. wild birds) cannot reach the susceptible population.

2. Reduction: Weaken your enemy, so that he does not spread.

The objective of biosecurity measures is to keep the infection pressure below the level that allows the natural immunity of the animals to cope with the infections, reducing the infection pressure.

Through an effective cleaning and disinfection programme, by reducing the planting density and changing footwear when entering a production house.

3. Approaching: Hunt the elephant in the room, scare off the butterflies

In each production unit, some pathogens can be identified as being of great economic importance. For each of these, it is necessary to understand the likely routes of introduction into a farm and how it may spread within the farm.

Considering that not all routes of disease transmission are equally important, the design of the biosecurity program should focus first on high-risk routes of transmission and only later on lower-risk routes of transmission.

4. Repetition: increased likelihood of infection

In addition to the probability of transmission of pathogens through the different transmission routes, the frequency of occurrence of the transmission route is also very significant when assessing a risk.

When designing biosecurity programmes, risk actions, such as veterinary visits, if repeated regularly, should be considered to be of higher risk.

5. Spreading: In the crowd, it’s easy to dress up

The risks related to the introduction and spread of diseases are much more important in general; more animals can be infected and maintain the infection cycle, also large flocks / herds increase the infection pressure and increase the risk by contact with external elements such as feed, visitors, etc.


Can we continue improving our biosecurity?

Almost 100% of pig operations already have a nominal biosecurity program, but in all cases it is not effective or fully effective. BioCheck UGent, a standardized biosecurity questionnaire applied worldwide, shows an average of 68% compliance, from over 2000 pig farms respectively; opportunities for improvement can be found on farms around the world, and they pay off.


Biosecurity is necessary for disease prevention in any profitable animal production system. In order to plan effectively, these 5 principles must be applied to choose the appropriate interventions to prevent the entry and spread of disease. However, maintaining a successful production unit requires a holistic approach in which other aspects of biosecurity must also be taken seriously, as well as actions for improvement in other areas such as management, health and nutrition.

Author: Marisabel Caballero, Global Technical Manager Poultry, EW Nutrition and Fellipe Freitas Barbosa, Global Technical Manager Swine, EW Nutrition


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