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Codes of Recommendations for the Welfare of Livestock : Animal Health and Biosecurity


Codes of Recommendations for the Welfare of Livestock : Animal Health and Biosecurity


This Code is intended to promote heightened animal disease surveillance and biosecurity measures on farms, the need for which was identified in the Royal Society's Report on Infectious Diseases in Livestock, published in July 2002, and Dr Iain Anderson's Report, also of July 2002, on the Lessons to be Learned Inquiry into Foot and Mouth Disease in 2001.

This preface is not part of the Code but is intended to explain the legal considerations upon which it is based. The legislation quoted in Annex A is also not part of the Code but highlights some of the legal requirements.

The law relevant to parts of the Code is that in force on the date of publication or reprinting of the Code (please turn to the back cover for this information). Any of the legal requirements quoted might be subject to change - readers should seek confirmation before assuming that these are an accurate statement of the law currently in force.

To cause unnecessary pain or unnecessary distress to any livestock on agricultural land is an offence under section 1(1) of the Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1968. The breach of a Code provision is not an offence in itself, but it can be used in evidence as tending to establish the guilt of anyone accused of causing the offence of causing unnecessary pain or distress under the Act (section 3(4)).

This Code extends to Scotland only.



1. Biosecurity is the responsibility of everybody - it means ways in which farmers, other owners of farm animals, and people who live, work, visit and enjoy the countryside can significantly reduce the risk of disease occurring or spreading to other animals. Biosecurity is more than cleansing and disinfecting; it includes, for example, the prudent sourcing of stock, quarantine, testing and vaccination.

2. Animal disease:

  • harms the welfare of animals;

  • disrupts farming and rural businesses;

  • costs livestock owners' money;

  • prevents produce going to market in peak condition;

  • can cause disease in humans, such as Salmonella;

  • can lead to the loss of export markets;

  • causes stress and anxiety to animal owners and others; and

  • has the potential to affect the quality of the environment as a consequence of the disposal of wastes.

3. Everybody gains by following good biosecurity precautions - farmers, related farming and rural industries and Scotland as a whole.

4. Biosecurity precautions are needed by all those who keep animals whether as a commercial livestock farmer or as someone who keeps a farm animal as a pet. Advice in this Code will not apply to all situations, but the principles of good biosecurity apply everywhere.

Notifiable disease

5. At the first sign or suspicion of a notifiable disease (see Annex B) contact your vet immediately and isolate the sick animal(s), with the dam(s) if appropriate. There is a legal duty to contact the duty vet at the local Animal Health Divisional Office. An on-call
24-hour service is provided for notifiable disease reporting (see Annex C). Biosecurity advice can be obtained from your local vet or Animal Health Divisional Office. Further information about the Code itself can be obtained from the Scottish Executive's Animal Health and Welfare Division on 0131 244 6553.

How disease is spread

6. Most animal diseases are caused by bacteria, viruses or parasites that are spread by:

  • mother to offspring;

  • direct or indirect contact with infected animals;

  • eating or drinking contaminated food or water. Watercourses can introduce disease from other farms;

  • grazing on contaminated pastures;

  • breathing air contaminated by infected animals;

  • vermin, encouraged by vegetation and sources of food around farm buildings; and

  • animals to humans and/or their vehicles that then spread infection to other animals.

Planning to avoid disease: health plan

7. Any disease in a herd/flock is unwelcome. Affected animals suffer welfare problems and productivity is lost. However, the existence of disease can be reduced, and the losses and suffering minimised, by careful planning. An animal health plan can be created to reduce the risk of introducing disease and to recognise, treat and control existing conditions. The prevention and control of disease should not be left to chance. The local vet will be able to advise on the biosecurity measures most appropriate for your herd/flock health plan. Such a plan should be updated annually.

8. Farm Assured Schemes recognise the benefits of these health plans, and have included them in their standards.

Reducing risks

9. To reduce the risk of disease requires constant effort by all who deal with farm animals, rear gamebirds or come across wild game. The following are key elements:

Farm management

  • train staff in the principles of hygiene and disease security;

  • provide cleansing and disinfectant materials (brush, hose, water, disinfectant and, if possible, a pressure washer) for all visitors/workers on arrival and departure or provide protective clothing/footwear/disposable gloves for on-farm use;

  • have stock-proof boundaries;

  • check and maintain boundaries regularly;

  • minimise nose-to-nose contact with neighbouring stock;

  • prevent animals from straying onto roads (1 - Annex A);

  • if common grazings are used try to isolate incoming stock before turning them onto common grazings;

  • dispose of bedding and prevent livestock access for 6 weeks;

  • newly-born animals are particularly susceptible to disease so make sure that designated calving and lambing areas are regularly cleansed and disinfected; and

  • dispose of fallen stock in accordance with the legislation (2 - Annex A).


Dirty transport vehicles of all types pose a high risk of introducing infection. Therefore:

  • avoid unnecessary contact between vehicles and livestock;

  • clean and disinfect vehicles of all types, including trailers and quad bikes, if exposed to other farms' animals. It is important to remember areas which may not be immediately visible, for example wheel arches, mudguards and mudflaps; and

  • vehicles must be cleaned and disinfected after transporting animals (3 - Annex A). The rules are slightly different depending on whether or not transport is within the farm business. Different diseases require different disinfectants at different strengths. Telephone your local Animal Health Divisional Office (see Annex C) for advice on approved disinfectants. Remember that disinfectant is ineffective if dirt is present, therefore thorough cleaning is necessary before disinfectant is applied.

Buildings and equipment

  • clean and disinfect buildings after use by livestock; and

  • clean and disinfect all shared and hired equipment after use and before moving off farm.


  • dissuade callers from having contact with livestock. Display notices directing callers to the farmhouse or farm office. Without good cause, do not let visitors enter buildings where animals are kept, or touch livestock or feedstuffs;

  • reduce the number of vehicles entering your farm; consider having a post box at the end of your farm road;

  • avoid wearing dirty work clothes or footwear off the farm, particularly when going to a market;

  • wash hands after close contact with any farm animal and, ideally, provide permanent facilities for this; and

  • signpost the farm. This can be important if a disease outbreak occurs.

New animals to farm/returning animals

10. It is advisable to know the health status of animals you are buying, moving or bringing on. The entry of any animal onto a farm is a disease risk. This includes animals which have been purchased at market or animals for seasonal grazing/housing or wintering. The risk is reduced by breeding your own replacements. However, where it is necessary to add new stock:

  • keep new livestock coming onto farm separate for 20 days in an isolation facility. Before moving animals off your farm, check that you have complied with current Scottish Executive Environment and Rural Affairs Department rules;

  • buy your stock from as small a number of sources as possible;

  • make sure stock replacements come with some degree of accreditation and/or a high, proved, health status;

  • consult and agree a testing programme with your vet;

  • obtain information on the recent history of the flock/herd and what treatments/ vaccinations the animals have received. Questions to ask, for example, are: when was the animal last tested for TB or brucellosis? Are they registered under the National Scrapie Plan?; and

  • treat for internal and external parasites.

11. The use of hired bulls/rams/billy goats and the introduction of foster animals from another farm are high risk activities. These animals should be isolated and checked by a vet.

Records and traceability

12. There are legal requirements for the registration of all livestock and premises, animal identification, breeding and movement records. Rapid traceability is important for effective disease control.

13. Keepers of cattle, sheep, pigs, goats, poultry and farmed deer must be registered and their animals identified in accordance with the law, even if only one animal is kept
(4 - Annex A).

14. Vehicles and people can spread disease. Veterinary investigations into notifiable disease would be greatly assisted by records of visitors and deliveries.

Animal medicines

15. Sharing injecting and dosing equipment is a very high-risk activity. If it cannot be avoided, cleanse and disinfect thoroughly.

16. Farmers or keepers of farm animals are required to keep a record of veterinary medicines used in accordance with the Regulations (5 - Annex A).

17. The use of unauthorised veterinary medicines is not permitted (6 - Annex A). Such products may endanger animal and/or consumer health, if used.

Slurry and manure

18. Infections can survive in slurry and manure. To reduce the risk:

  • spread on arable land rather than grass for silage making or stock grazing. If this is not possible, allow a 6-week gap between spreading and access by livestock;

  • spread slurry using an inverted spreading plate; and

  • avoid using hired/shared spreaders if possible. However, if sharing is unavoidable ensure spreaders are thoroughly cleansed before coming on your farm and again before leaving.

19. The PEPFAA Code (Prevention of Environmental Pollution from Agricultural Activity) is the acknowledged source of information on spreading of farm wastes. Legislation regulates spreading of sewage sludge (7- Annex A).


20. Wild animals and birds can spread disease. To reduce this risk:

  • discourage vermin by keeping farmyard and surroundings clean and tidy;

  • prevent wildlife gaining access by keeping feedstock buildings in good repair;

  • keep doors and windows shut if there is no need for ventilation;

  • net windows, baffles and drains and monitor these areas regularly; and

  • have an active rodent control system.

Feed and water

21. Various diseases can be spread by contaminated feed and water. This risk is reduced by:

  • using mains water wherever possible. There is evidence that private supplies are at a higher risk of becoming infected;

  • have water bowls or drinkers above the level for faecal contamination (8 - Annex A);

  • avoid contamination of watercourses;

  • clean feed and water troughs regularly;

  • keep feed in a clean, dry store;

  • keep feed stores covered and shut to ensure no access by dogs, cats, vermin and wildlife; and

  • dispose of old or soiled feed safely.

22. Swill feeding is banned (9 - Annex A).

Dogs and cats

23. Dogs should be regularly treated for tapeworms, particularly newly acquired animals, before they have access to pasture. Cats (particularly young ones) must not get into food stores (cat faeces may contain Toxoplasma oocysts which can cause abortion storms in sheep).

24. Do what you can to stop dogs and cats from walking in feed troughs.

Remember that cattle born after 1 January 1998 are legally required to be double tagged. Note that the cattle in this picture are older animals.


Visitors to farm properties and/or buildings where farm animals are kept, for example contractors, business visitors and utility workers, need to be aware of their role in helping the community combat the transmission of animal diseases.

  • Business visitors and contractors should contact the farmer or representative first to arrange the visit.

  • If you are visiting the farm as a representative of any organisation, you should ensure that your clothes are not muddy and that your shoes/boots have been cleaned and disinfected (on each occasion, if visiting a number of farms), where this is possible. Telephone your local Animal Health Divisional Office (see Annex C) for advice on approved disinfectants.

  • Agricultural contractors should ensure that all vehicles, trailers, machinery and equipment have been cleansed and disinfected before going onto and on leaving farm properties. Follow a contractor's code of conduct where available.

  • Park sensibly to avoid potential contact with enclosed farm livestock, or those areas where livestock have recently been held.

  • Follow biosecurity advice given to you by individual farmers.


1. Walkers, cyclists and horse-riders are encouraged to follow the advice below, to help reduce the risk of future disease outbreaks. This advice is interim prior to the planned introduction of the Scottish Outdoor Access Code, 1 expected to come into effect in late 2003. In the event of a disease outbreak more detailed advice on taking and managing access responsibly will be disseminated to all relevant parties.

2. Recreational users should follow these precautions:

  • never feed animals or leave food around where animals can eat it;

  • take all litter with you;

  • respect any official signposting in the event of a disease outbreak;

  • ensure gates are left as they are found;

  • avoid contact with farm animals;

  • keep dogs under control; and

  • use disinfectant footpads or baths where provided, particularly in the event of a disease outbreak.

3. Particular risks, such as from E. coli, can arise when people picnic or camp in fields that are being, or have recently been used for grazing. Try to avoid picnicking or camping in these areas. Make sure that you wash your hands after leaving the area and before touching food.

1 Further information on the Access Code can be obtained from Scottish Natural Heritage