Introducing the new BETTER network
Nowadays, health and welfare, safety and sustainability are crucial elements for ensuring the future of livestock production. Biosecurity aims to prevent the introduction and spread of pathogens within and between farms and, consequently, results in better welfare, increased food safety and better sustainability. In addition, biosecurity measures act as a barrier against the periodic emergence of transboundary diseases.
In the last few years, several studies have described numerous biosecurity measures applied in European farms. These studies reflected differences in biosecurity levels between farming systems and countries. However, the few publications comparing different countries were mostly descriptive without any further analysis about the reasons for this heterogeneity. In addition, most of these studies were conducted in commercial holdings in Western Europe and, therefore, information about other production systems or countries is lacking.
The implementation of biosecurity measures is important in private veterinary practice to reduce the risk of spread of endemic diseases that affects productivity, but it is also important for animal health authorities to combat diseases with high morbidity and substantial impact on animal trade (mainly exotic diseases).
To approach these challenges, the new COST Action Biosecurity Enhanced Through Training Evaluation and Raising Awareness (BETTER) will evaluate how biosecurity is currently used and will use participative approaches to understand motivators and barriers for biosecurity implementation. The knowledge generated through these approaches will act as the baseline upon which adequate communication and training strategies on biosecurity will be developed.
BETTER COST Action will perform an assessment of existing methods used to evaluate biosecurity. Exploiting these tools will promote the development of tailored options in farms based on the evaluation of their risks, on the feasibility of selected biosecurity measures and on their economic benefits. Moreover, the Action will identify training needs through the evaluation of existing training materials and will develop new courses, increasing therefore the number of trained professionals. Finally, the Action will recommend priority research areas for future biosecurity improvement in animal production systems.
Launched in October 2021, the network involves a multidisciplinary team of economists, epidemiologists, evidence synthesis experts, infectious diseases and animal production experts, sociologists, psychologists, and communication experts, among others, encompassing the expertise needed to solve the identified challenges. At present, BETTER has 175 participants from 37 different countries. While most of the participants are based in Europe, there is a growing participation from other continents such as America, Australia, and Africa. In addition, stakeholders from government bodies, the industry, or international organisations such as FAO and OIE have also joined the Action.