Livestock Disease Outbreaks

Animal Health & Livestock Outbreaks

The importance of planning is to minimise the impact of a livestock disease outbreak and to reduce the spread of the disease.
The effects of an outbreak could have serious impacts such as; movement restrictions and the culling of a large number of animals. There could also be human impacts resulting from potential zoonotic diseases.
Some emergencies might require you to plan how you would look after your pets, especially those where you might have to leave your home for a short time. Check out our advice on evacuating with animals!

Why Plan?

Effective planning has to balance the costs of various outcomes against the likelihood of those events occurring and the severity of that impact.

The local authority has a duty to create plans at a local level to mitigate the effects of any incidents likely to cause serious damage to human health and the environment.
The Animal Health Act 1981 places additional duties on local authorities in relation to animal disease outbreaks. This role is focused on preventing the spread of livestock disease and so limiting the effect of the disease on humans, animals and the environment.
There are various legal requirements that livestock keepers should be aware of including The Animal Welfare Act 2006 which makes owners and keepers of animals responsible for ensuring that their welfare needs are met and deems it an offence for a responsible person to cause or allow an animal to suffer unnecessarily.

What happens in a disease outbreak situation?

Defra has well-documented plans for dealing with an outbreak, these plans deal with advise to local authorities, the media, central government and farmers. These plans will also say how a disease will be managed and how the farming community is expected to respond. The plans detail arrangements for dealing with, controlling and eradicating disease.
The aim for any response will be to:

  • Cause the least possible disruption to all industries and the public as a whole
  • Minimise the number of animals that need to be slaughtered for any reason
  • Minimise the damage to the environment and protect public health

Defra, together with the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA – formerly the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency), are directly responsible for both local and national disease control and the animal health and welfare response.

Planning for farmers

One way to protect your livestock, business and income is to plan ahead – make plans and assess what you will need. In a disease outbreak incident, local authority personnel and other officials will advise you on the situation but you may find that having your own plans in place (in accordance with any current legal constraints) is essential.
It is advised that you take the following steps:

  • Consider the measures you would take to protect your livestock, income and family in a disease outbreak situation. Planning may help you and your community avoid a disease outbreak and the possible associated animal welfare problems
  • Consider how you and your community will address biosecurity issues in a disease situation. Discussing it now, at local farming groups for example,
  • Keep your livestock records safe. These will be essential and a legal requirement, whether paper based or computerised, to allow the effective tracing of disease by the authorities and will be needed if movement restrictions and licensing comes into effect

Other points to consider:

  • Consider fodder requirements and how movement restrictions will impact on your farm
  • Potential restrictions on human movement from infected premises (both family and workers)
  • Beware some diseases may have an impact on humans e.g. zoonotic

Defra, together with the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA – formerly the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency), are directly responsible for both local and national disease control and the animal health and welfare response.

Advice to livestock keepers during a disease outbreak incident

There are a number of things you can do in an outbreak and whilst many of these things will depend on the type of disease and local factors.
The following are some key points to follow regardless of the disease:

  • Be vigilant for signs of the disease no matter how near or far away the last outbreak was. Report any signs of disease without delay.
  • Do not place the wider farming industry at risk – we all have a common interest in getting farming back to business-as-usual as soon as possible.
  • Ask others to observe biosecurity and follow the rules. Minimise the number of visitors to your farm and ensure that all cleaning and disinfection on and off your premises are adhered to. Protecting your livestock and your business.
  • If you are in doubt about anything or have any questions then contact your local trading standards service.

If in doubt contact: