Supporting sustainable small-scale animal agriculture through development of biological risk management educational materials

Final report for ENC19-176

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2019: $90,000.00
Projected End Date: 09/30/2022
Grant Recipient: Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine
Region: North Central
State: Iowa
Project Coordinator:
Dr. Renee Dewell, DVM, MS
Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine
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Project Information


Biological Risk Management (BRM) is a well-defined process of evaluating and reducing the risk of infectious disease entry and spread on a livestock operation. BRM is a critical component of maintaining a healthy population of animals and is especially important for the sustainability of small-scale livestock operations (SSLO) because it decreases the risk of infectious disease, thus lessening morbidities and mortalities, reducing labor and stress associated with identifying sick animals, and decreasing use and cost of antimicrobials. BRM thus enhances profitability and contributes to a higher quality of life for the producer, their animals, the environment and the community.

Many SSLO have little awareness of BRM and how to implement BRM practices on their operations. The proposed project will provide resources for agriculture extension professionals to use with SSLOs to recognize and reduce routes of disease entry and spread. Online educational resources for extension professionals to assess and mitigate biological risk on SSLO will be developed. Materials will cover biological risk identification, infectious disease risk reduction, and response to and management of infectious diseases in SSLO. Materials will include printable templates, handouts, and posters. A train-the-trainer session will be held for agriculture professionals who will disseminate the information to their producers. The SSLO will benefit from developing site- and species- specific BRM plans to reduce the risk of infectious disease entry and spread. Understanding and implementing important BRM concepts and tools supports long-term sustainability of the region’s SSLO by promoting both human and animal health and increased profitability.

Project Objectives:

Objectives of this project were to:

  • Develop effective BRM educational materials by working with a SSLO Advisory Group.
  • Partner with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach (ISUEO) to share materials with NCR colleagues by communication through newsletters, emails, and on the ISUEO website.
  • Partner with ISUEO Small Farm Sustainability to provide materials to small holder livestock operations in Iowa as well as nationally via communication from Extension personnel as well as website availability of resources.
  • Conduct an in-person train-the-trainer workshop at the Iowa Small Farm Sustainability Conference to prepare Extension personnel to use available resources in their regions. Conference materials will be available online through a series of recorded PowerPoint presentations. These materials will prepare the Extension personnel to discuss BRM topics as well as familiarize them with available resources to use when working with SSLO.
  • Create and provide web-based educational materials and tools for Extension personnel to use with SSLO and for SSLO to use directly.

At least 80 people are expected to attend each BRM workshop at the Spring ISUEO Agriculture and Natural Resources Professional Development Day. ISUEO Small Farm Sustainability personnel will extend invitations to attend the conference workshops to approximately 120 NCR sustainability academic partners via email and printed invitation. Additionally, two webinars will be scheduled following the conclusion of the conferences to introduce extension personnel to the resources and train them in how to use them. Extension personnel expected to participate include NCR extension specialists for swine, cattle (dairy and beef), poultry, small ruminants, equine, and extension veterinarians.

At least 1,000 people are expected to take advantage of the online learning opportunities and resources. The CFSPH website is a high visibility website, particularly for BRM, and has over 361,057 unique visitors each year. The  resources the team develops for SSLO will be well-advertised on the CFSPH homepage. ISUEO Small Farm Sustainability website receives approximately 5,000 unique visits per month and the course will also be advertised on this site. The ISUEO Small Farm Sustainability program will also advertise the course availability within the Acreage Living newsletter, which is sent to approximately 2,500 subscribers in rural Iowa.


Small-scale livestock operations account for approximately 350,000 farms in the United States. These farms rely on their animals for sustainability. Healthier animals positively supports profitability on these operations, and thereby contributes to sustainability and responsible stewardship of natural resources.

Disease prevention is economically beneficial because it decreases morbidity and mortality as well as associated production losses and treatment costs. Properly managing biologic risk also reduces labor and stress associated with identifying and treating sick animals, and lessens antibiotic usage and the associated costs to support a higher quality of life for the producer, their animals, the environment and the community. Improving the health of animals on an individual SSLO also reduces the risk of disease introduction and spread to neighboring producers, and the risk of zoonotic disease transmission to those living and working on the farm. However, biological risk management (BRM) is a reported deficit for many SSLO, and as a result SSLO have been labeled high-risk in terms of potential introduction of certain endemic animal diseases.

BRM is a term used to describe a well-defined process of evaluating and reducing the risk of infectious disease entry and spread on a livestock operation. Producers can minimize the costly risk of introduction and spread of both domestic and foreign diseases by enhancing the BRM of their operations. Small-scale livestock producers recognize that BRM concepts are an important education topic. According to USDA NAHMS data, approximately 81% have prioritized “additional training in animal health/diseases and infectious disease management practices” as very useful or somewhat useful.

Small-scale livestock producers commonly receive training from their local extension office according to an April 2012 NAHMS Report. Internet and written publications were listed as the most preferred methods to receive training by SSLO. Since Extension personnel are a trusted resource, becoming knowledgeable about BRM concepts and principles and the educational materials available will help them discuss BRM concepts and practices that can be applied with producers. Activities such as delivering presentations to local small-scale livestock producer groups, distributing printed materials during visits to operations, printing information in newsletters, and promoting the resources website, can help to increase awareness of disease transmission risks and prevention practices for SSLO.


Educational approach:

Two freely available, train-the-trainer webinars with extension and animal health professionals were used to provide information about the biosecurity resources available and discuss how to use them with producers.

Education & Outreach Initiatives

Topic development and overview of review methodology

Educate Advisory Group members on reviewing methodology for project materials and obtain input on development of project topics


Recruitment of a SSLO Advisory Group occurred in November 2019. A  webinar was conducted on December 16th, 2019 and January 16th, 2020 to share information about the project and to provide instruction on methodology for review of project materials. The webinar was led by Drs. Glenda Dvorak and Reneé Dewell and provided a combination of interactive and didactic learning opportunities with time for discussion and clarification. Webinar leaders asked for feedback from the participants regarding biosecurity implementation, diseases of concern, zoonotic diseases and infectious disease transmission, animal disease outbreaks on their operations, and interactions with extension personnel. Feedback about preferred and current learning methods for biosecurity topics was also requested and discussed.

Outcomes and impacts:

Advisory Group feedback was used to inform development of project educational materials including content and delivery format. Advisory Group members utilized the information project leadership presented to provide appropriate feedback following their review of three different sets of project materials. The materials submitted for Advisory Group review included preliminary project topics and content, draft content of a biosecurity checklist, biosecurity educational handouts and PowerPoint presentation, disease transmission and cleaning and disinfection educational materials. The reviews were used to refine and further improve materials developed for this project.


BRM and biosecurity educational resources for small-scale producers

Develop effective BRM educational materials by working with a SSLO Advisory Group


More than 30 different educational handouts were developed for this project. Materials included a livestock and poultry biosecurity checklist to identify key disease risk areas on small-scale farms. Producer-friendly tip sheets (12) for each risk area were developed to provide guidance on actions to take to minimize disease risks. This content was also developed into visually engaging narrated presentations (6) to provide a podcast type of approach to the recommendations. Tip sheets on preventing disease routes of transmission (4) were also developed, as this approach is a foundation of biological risk management. To complement these transmission handouts, materials summarizing specific species diseases by routes of transmission (3) were also developed, to highlight the impact (and number of diseases) transmission prevention can be effective against. Seven handouts on specific cleaning and disinfection recommendations for specific items (e.g., footwear, neonatal feeding equipment) were developed for producers.

Outcomes and impacts:

Several educational resources on biological risk management were developed for SSLO. Input from the Advisory Group helped to ensure content was applicable and understandable for the targeted audience of small-scale producers.

Raise awareness of availability of educational resources to small-scale producers

Partner with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach (ISUEO) to share materials with NCR colleagues by communication through newsletters, emails and on the ISUEO website.


A plan to promote the materials to extension and animal health educators in the North Central Region and nationally was developed in collaboration with ISUEO. Advertisement of the extension webinars (described below) were sent out via extension newsletters and burst emails. The ISUEO has extensive experience in providing communication and outreach with this targeted audience.

Outcomes and impacts:

Information regarding the materials and training webinar were sent out to the 12 North Central SARE coordinators, to be further distributed to State Livestock Management Specialists in the North Central Region and nationally. Information was also provided to interested participants via the Connect Extension/Extension Foundation platform. Invitations were also sent to 260 vocational-agriculture teachers across Iowa. Additional invitations by the CFSPH included various animal health professional list servs and Facebook groups targeting animal science professionals, 4-H Youth Development Professionals, and agriculture educators.  

Raise awareness of availability of educational resources to extension and animal health professionals

Partner with ISUEO Small Farm Sustainability to provide materials to small holder livestock operations in Iowa and nationally via communication from Extension personnel as well as website availability of resources.


Promotion of the new biosecurity resources and website was conducted by the ISUEO Small Farm Sustainability group. This program has a robust and vibrant program and respected expertise among small-scale agriculture producers. A series of articles targeting producers was developed for the ISUEO Small Farm Sustainability Acreage Living Newsletter. The articles introduced the concept of small-scale BRM, promoted the resources as well as conveying biosecurity tips was developed, and encouraged producers to contact their local extension professional to learn more. Additionally, CFSPH collaborated with ISUEO to produce a podcast targeting small scale producers that discussed key biosecurity measures and the availability of resources to learn more.

Outcomes and impacts:

The estimated outreach for the ISUEO Small Farm Sustainability Acreage Living Newsletter is over 3400 subscribers, and includes members of livestock commodity groups and associations. ISUEO has a strong regional and national following for their podcast series, with an average of 870 downloads per episode. The podcast was aired November 3, 2021.

Provide training to extension and animal health professional on use of the educational materials for producers.

Conduct a training workshop to prepare Extension personnel to use available resources in their regions.


An in-person training workshop was proposed for this project to provide outreach to extension personnel on available resources and methods to use the materials with small-scale producers. Due to the occurrence of COVID-19 in early 2020 and the resulting limitation of in-person gatherings (e.g., community presentations), the Spring ISUEO Agriculture and Natural Resources Professional Development Day was cancelled. As an alternative, two webinars (May and June 2021) were conducted to share resources and training with extension and animal health producers. Advertisement for the webinars was conducted through extension, livestock commodity groups, and university faculty. Participants received an immediate post-training survey and a 1 month follow up survey to provide feedback on how they anticipated using the materials and how they used the materials, respectively.

A presentation promoting the materials available was delivered virtually on October 24, 2021 at the applied animal and Public Health Research and Extension Symposium sponsored by the American Association of Extension Veterinarians. Approximately 30 individuals were in attendance.

Outcomes and impacts:

In all, 92 participants from 20 different states attended the training webinar. Forty-two percent of participants were affiliated with extension, 7 attendees were from livestock associations, and 4 were livestock producers. Feedback responses from the post-training surveys were low, however, those that provided responses intended to reach out to small-scale producers in their area.

Participants attending the two training webinars received a survey immediately following the training to ask ways they anticipated using the materials. Of the total 92 participants in both trainings, 36 completed the post-training survey. All listed three ways they anticipated using the materials, which included a variety of outreach and delivery methods, from annual producer workshops, to newsletter articles, producer forums, training courses, Facebook posts and outreach to 4-H and FFA. All participants also received a follow-up survey one month after the training to see if any distribution or use of the materials had occurred. Only 16 participants completed the 1-month follow-up survey. Most reported they had not used the materials yet, but still planned to. Two respondents had used the materials with FFA and 4-H during county fair time.  Given many of the uses indicated in the initial post-course survey involved annual meetings, it is anticipated that a survey beyond one month (e.g. at six months or 1 year following the training) would have likely produced more distribution results.

Development and launch of dedicated webpage to house the educational materials for free access and download.

Create web-based educational materials and tools for Extension personnel to use with SSLO and for SSLO to use directly.


To provide easily accessible information for extension and animal health professionals, as well as small-scale producers, a dedicated webpage was created to house the educational resources developed for this project. The dedicated website can be found at

Outcomes and impacts:

Web accesses results for the dedicated biosecurity webpage from May through September 2021 were 2608 page view of the main landing page, 141 views of the agritourism biosecurity resources, and 182 downloads of the livestock and poultry biosecurity checklist. There was interest and downloads of the prepared biosecurity tip sheet slide decks. Animal health and disease monitoring and animal movement were the top downloads with 34 and 24 respectively. There was also interest and visits to the tip sheet videos (narrated presentations). Agritourism, animal health and disease monitoring and animal movement were top hits for this period.

Educational & Outreach Activities

31 Curricula, factsheets or educational tools
3 Online trainings
2 Published press articles, newsletters
3 Webinars / talks / presentations

Participation Summary:

39 Extension
52 Ag service providers (other or unspecified)
4,328 Farmers/ranchers
2,608 Others

Learning Outcomes

92 Participants gained or increased knowledge, skills and/or attitudes about sustainable agriculture topics, practices, strategies, approaches
35 Ag professionals intend to use knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness learned

Project Outcomes

1 Grant received that built upon this project
1 New working collaboration
Project outcomes:

The CFSPH is both nationally and internationally known for its online educational resources, covering topics such as transboundary animal diseases, animal health emergencies, veterinary immunology, BRM, and zoonotic diseases. The materials developed for this project are complemented by currently existing material on the CFSPH website, including

A concurrent CFSPH project developed producer level educational materials on species specific biosecurity assessment and implementation, including biosecurity plan templates. Materials were species specific for beef cattle, dairy cattle, swine, sheep and poultry, and promoted in the State of Iowa. These materials complement the all-species, biological risk management approach taken for this project, to aid small-scale producers in nuances unique to a particular species.

Thirty-nine extension specialist attended the training webinar to learn about the resources and how to use them with SSLO.

39 Agricultural service provider participants who used knowledge and skills learned through this project (or incorporated project materials) in their educational activities, services, information products and/or tools for farmers
4,300 Farmers reached through participant's programs
Additional Outcomes:

The Advisory Group review and input provided insightful feedback to adapt materials in a way that resonated or seems "doable" for them. At the beginning most felt biosecurity was not applicable, or too cumbersome for their operation. At the end of the project and reviewing materials, they gained insight on things small-scale producers can do to protect their herd.

Success stories:

Dairy goat farmer in Iowa:  I think this is a really good checklist. It's easier to understand this time.  Reading the questions really gets me thinking about what I'm doing correctly and what I need to improve on my own farm. I think this (a biosecurity tip powerpoint/video on cleaning and disinfection) would be very helpful.  Many people struggle in this area I feel.  Having a video and power point may get the information across better than just a handout and checklist.

Small-scale producer (beef, pork, lambs) in Iowa: We have a commercial kitchen on our farm so are familiar with the wash, rinse and sanitize procedure for our stainless surfaces. I found this detailed guide to cleaning and disinfecting farm surfaces that may come into contact with humans and animals to be incredibly helpful, especially the part about rinsing the disinfectant after it’s had the chance to do it’s work because it could potentially be harmful to animals.

Small-scale dairy producer in Iowa: Info gets to the point without getting too complex. Solutions are something any farmer could utilize, not too complicated and they can work with what they’ve got. The website is easy to navigate and simple, making it visually appealing. I like the way the different subject tabs look and then the documents listed below are easy to follow and use. Overall I’d say it looks good and has a good layout.




There is a need to have more materials in Spanish to reach a subsection of the producer population. The small-scale producer Advisory Group felt that having social media resources would be helpful as many producers obtain information from commodity discussion groups or social media posts. They also requested materials specific to goats.

Information Products

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.