Biosecurity practices for animal health: guidance

Biosecurity is a set of management practices that collectively reduce the potential for the introduction or spread of animal disease-causing organisms onto and between farms.

Risk management when buying livestock

Buying in animals carries a risk of introducing disease. There is a hierarchy of risk when sourcing animals; there are no absolute guarantees of freedom from disease but it is possible and worthwhile to determine the degree of risk. The sources of replacement livestock influence the degree of risk.

Animals in the lowest category of risk are:

  • animals from health scheme herds certified free of specific diseases
  • animals from health scheme herds being monitored for specific diseases
  • single source herds of known disease status
  • animals from multiple sources of known disease status
  • single source herds of unknown disease status or in which the disease is known to have occurred

Those in the highest category of risk are:

  • animals from multiple sources of unknown disease status or in which the disease is known to have occurred

There are key practices that should be routinely employed to reduce the risk of disease occurring or spreading on the farm.

Purchasers should:

  • be aware of which diseases pose the greatest risks
  • know what questions to ask of prospective vendors to find out the likelihood of a disease being present (for example, ask for the date and result of the last TB test carried out on the herd in question or encourage the vendors to have a TB test completed prior to purchase)
  • consult their veterinary surgeon and develop an overall health plan (this is an opportunity to make a long term plan for incorporation in to the farm management system)
  • inspect animals, preferably on the farm of origin, before purchase where possible
  • keep incoming animals separate from the main herd or flock for an appropriate period (including where animals are acquired from herds certified free of specific diseases). Legislative requirements for separation and isolation exist under the Animal Disease Control Movement Restrictions. Regular careful inspection of segregated livestock should take place throughout the separation period
  • preferably purchase directly from the farm of origin and avoid mixing of animals during transportation
  • be aware that if you buy in disease you may put your neighbours at risk

Vendors should:

  • develop a health plan with their veterinary surgeon
  • have information for prospective purchasers on the disease status of the herd supplying animals for sale
  • provide details of their latest TB and brucella test or have the herd tested prior to sale



Tel: 0300 244 9874
Fax: 0300 244 9797

Scottish Government
Agriculture and Rural Economy Directorate
Animal Health and Welfare
P Spur
Saughton House
Broomhouse Drive
EH11 3XD

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