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15 January 2020

Biocheck: Scoring System to Guarantee Biosecurity

Belgium has a great number of measures in place to guarantee biosecurity in pig farms and the pork production process. They prove their value in the aftermath of the ASF outbreak in Belgium, with which Belgium dealt successfully. The University of Ghent even developed a scoring system tool for it: Biocheck.

Biosecurity, the Basis of Disease Control

Biosecurity in the production of pork is key to prevent exotic diseases as well as endemic infections. It’s the combination of all measures taken to reduce the risk of introduction and spread of diseases on a herd, region, country or even greater level.

It concerns both external biosecurity (reduce the introduction of diseases) and internal biosecurity (reduce the spread of diseases). Regarding its preventive character, biosecurity should be the basis of any disease control program.

The 5 Principles of Biosecurity

  1. Separation of infectious and susceptible animals
    by avoiding all (in)direct contact
  2. Not every transmission route is equally important
    with greater focus on live animals, transport vehicles, persons, clothing, hands, material…
  3. Reduction of the general infection pressure
    by breaking the infection circle (cleaning, disinfection, vaccination…)
  4. Herd size
    by breaking the infection circle (cleaning, disinfection, vaccination…)
  5. Frequency


ASF: Avoiding Spread through Extra Biosecurity Measures

In September 2018, ASF was detected within wild boar in Belgium. The virus never reached domestic pig farms. Biosecurity measures certainly contributed to keeping these farms virus-free—most of these measures are standard procedure in Belgium.

What did Belgium do?

  • Before entering the farm
    Buying animals was avoided as much as possible. The number of visitors was limited, and great attention was paid to every transport of animals and goods. The fences around each farm were thoroughly checked.
  • At the farm itself
    Extensive pest control was assured, with stables being kept free of pets. Pigs were not fed with food leftovers. Naturally, any suspicious clinical symptom was tested, a.o. for ASF (according to Belgium’s mandatory notification procedures).
  • Outside of the farm
    All contact with live or dead boar was avoided.


Biocheck: Objectively Measuring Biosecurity

To manage biosecurity, the University of Ghent developed Biocheck, an online risk-based biosecurity scoring system for pig farms—a quantitative tool to measure biosecurity. It enables farmers to objectively calculate, evaluate and enhance biosecurity at their pig farm.

Biocheck starts with a clear-cut questionnaire, based on a farm visit. When completed in the tool, the questionnaire leads to an analysis of the internal and external biosecurity of the farm. During a follow-up curative visit, herd-specific advice will be given to the farmer, as well as coaching to enhance biosecurity at the farm.

Enhanced Biosecurity, Enhanced Productivity

Biocheck proves: enhancing biosecurity goes hand in hand with the production process—i.e. by reducing antimicrobial usage. Lowering the defined daily dose for animals has a positive effect on various parameters: the number of weaned piglets per sow per year and the daily weight gain and, while decreasing the mortality in the finisher period.

Reversion of the antimicrobial persistence thus leads to economic benefits as well, showing that prevention truly stimulates production.


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