Biosecurity practices for animal health: guidance for public sector staff

Management practices that collectively reduce the potential for the introduction or spread of animal disease-causing organisms onto and between farms.

Good biosecurity practice refers to a way of working that minimises the risk of contamination and the spread of animal and plant pests and diseases, parasites and non-native species.

The importance of biosecurity

Good biosecurity practice helps prevent outbreaks and the spread of pests and diseases. Many species of plants and animals, including fish and shellfish, are susceptible to a range of diseases and pests, some of which are notifiable under animal health, fish health and plant health legislation.

Outbreaks of certain animal and plant pests and diseases can have a severe financial impact on the agriculture, forestry, aquaculture and angling industries. They can cause economic hardship, lead to animals suffering and have a major impact on other sectors such as food processing and tourism.

For example, the 2007 foot and mouth disease outbreak is estimated to have cost the Scottish livestock sector and allied businesses over £35 million.

The spread of endemic disease can have an equally detrimental impact on individual businesses and on the welfare of their livestock. This guide provides some examples of specific pests and diseases relating to animals, fish and plants.

You cannot always see disease causing agents, plant pests, parasites and non-native species. You can pick them up and carry them on your clothing and footwear, and on vehicles and equipment to other locations.

A major outbreak can also impact significantly on you if your movement into the countryside is restricted, your fieldwork and inspections are stopped, or you receive extra work to respond to a crisis.

Biosecurity in different premises

Biosecurity is important when you enter any farmland, or other premises like fish farms where there is a risk of spreading pest or disease. This includes all agricultural land (including grassland and arable/horticultural crops), hill ground, moorland that carries stock, farm steadings, woodlands and rivers, lochs and aquaculture units.

It is important that you are aware you might be up-stream of a fish farm if you are entering a watercourse.

Biosecurity is often viewed as a burden and, in certain cases, does involve extra work. However, this guidance demonstrates that in most cases very little, if any, extra effort is required.

This guidance should help you decide the appropriate level of biosecurity control you need to carry out.

The guidance cannot cover every eventuality and in some situations complying with specific requirements will be difficult in practice. If that happens you should consider the disease risk and take reasonable precautions to maintain satisfactory biosecurity.

If an outbreak of any exotic or notifiable animal or plant disease/pest is suspected, the relevant authority must be informed at the earliest opportunity.

Health and safety considerations

There are several zoonoses (diseases capable of being transmitted from animals to humans) that may be of risk to humans including, for example lyme disease, leptospirosis, E. coli O157 and salmonella.

Good hygiene practice will significantly reduce the risk of contracting or spreading a zoonosis. When following this guidance you should be aware of the health and safety requirements for handling and using disinfectants and disposal of potentially contaminated clothing or equipment.



Telephone: 0300 244 4000 (Central Enquiry Unit)

Scottish Government
Agriculture and Rural Economy Directorate
Saughton House


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