Mention the term, “biosecurity” and most folks' first thought is defending against the intentional release of a biological agent meant to harm people, animals or plants. While that's likely the most worrisome and sensational scenario, biosecurity encompasses much more.

A biosecurity program should effectively manage the risks posed by the introduction of infectious diseases, parasites and pests, and preventing the establishment and spread of those organisms that may adversely affect the economy, environment and human and animal health.

Good biosecurity will help protect a farm, an entire livestock industry, and the national economy from the intentional release of a virulently contagious disease like foot-and-mouth disease (FMD). But, it will also help protect and minimize the effects of the inadvertent introduction of that same disease, as well as the spread of diseases already common in the U.S.

This issue is devoted exclusively to the topic of biosecurity for the cow-calf operation, what it is and why it's important. On the following pages, you'll find a discussion of biosecurity and details on its various categories, including emerging disease, endemic disease and bioterrorism. The discussion is designed to provide readers with a better understanding of biosecurity, its importance and its implementation, all in the hopes of building a more secure U.S. beef industry and U.S. food supply.