General livestock movement bans may hurt local economy

General livestock movement bans may hurt local economy

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Research finds more localized bans may be more economically feasible

A new study has found that general bans on the movement of livestock after a disease outbreak may not be the most economically feasible option.

Research from the University of Warwick in England focused on foot and mouth disease (FMD), bovine tuberculosis (bTB) and bluetongue virus (BTV) and the role of movement bans in controlling an outbreak.

The study found that the U.K.’s policy of national movement bans after an FMD outbreak and large-radius bans for BTV may cause unnecessary economic harm to the affected region.

Localized bans may be as effective

Because the livestock industry relies on the movement of animals, between farms or from farm to slaughter, the study says more localized bans may be just as effective in preventing disease spread while limiting negative economic effects.

“Our research says that movement controls need to be carefully matched to both the epidemiological and economic consequences of the disease, and optimal movement bans are often far shorter than existing policy,” said Mike Tildesley, of Warwick’s Zeeman Institute for Systems Biology and Infectious Disease Epidemiology Research (SBIDER).

“For example, our work suggests that movement bans of between 15-60 km are optimal for FMD (with larger radii preferable if tourism losses can be ignored), while for BTV the optimal policy is to allow all movements,” Tildesley said. “Adopting these optimal movement bans could lead to vast savings compared to more stringent policies. We fully recognize the need for the government to rapidly contain novel outbreaks in the face of uncertainty, but our work suggests that optimal movement bans should be enacted as soon as possible.”

Tildesley and his team acknowledge that livestock movements bring with them the risk of disease spread, but it said the risk is the highest for farms in close proximity to where an outbreak has been detected.

“Therefore, a limited movement ban (only preventing movements from farms near to known cases) brings most of the benefits but less of the economic costs,” it said. “By not automatically implemented national bans during FMD or BTV outbreaks, geographical regions unaffected by the outbreak would not face the same economic impact caused by the restrictions put in place by a national ban.”

The research, “The Role of Movement Restrictions in Limiting the Economic Impact of livestock Infections,” was published by Nature Sustainability.