UNIVERSITY PARK — With foreign animal diseases such as strep zoo, vesicular stomatitis and African swine fever threatening livestock producers, Penn State Extension and the Center for Poultry and Livestock Excellence are teaching biosecurity best-management practices to youth.

Pennsylvania Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding recently summarized the importance of biosecurity and teaching young livestock producers these best practices. It goes beyond just protecting their assets and their future, he pointed out.

“Yes, good biosecurity protects their animals from diseases that can wipe them out, along with all of the time, money and energy invested in them,” Redding said. “But biosecurity is also the foundation for food safety. The safety of the food on our tables begins on the farm.”

Because animal disease threats have increased due to international travel and global trade, the need for biosecurity best practices to be performed by youth livestock growers and producers has grown, according to Elizabeth Hines, assistant professor of animal science and extension swine specialist.

“Best management practices that once were conducted behind-the-scenes on the farm are now an integral part of management where livestock are exhibited or sold at public facilities,” she said. “Youth who display biosecurity best-management practices are garnering recognition as distinguished stockmen and learning skills that build social responsibility and leadership.”

Preparedness is paramount to disease prevention, explained Capri Stiles, extension educator who specializes in 4-H youth education and the biosecurity curriculum. She noted that the Penn State Extension and Pennsylvania 4-H mantra, “Be W.I.S.E., Be Biosecure,” provides a framework for biosecurity best-management practices. W.I.S.E. stands for “watch, isolate, sanitize and educate.”

Recently, this biosecurity refrain has become the theme for an online engagement activity through a Biosecurity Challenge on On the website, youth display how they make continuous improvements toward exemplary biosecurity standards.

Teaching youth livestock producers the biosecurity best practices and responsibilities that go with keeping stock healthy is important for improving the food supply and building the leaders of tomorrow, Stiles said.

“Showcasing their knowledge on biosecurity is just one more way for youth to be distinguished from their peers for their hard work in food production, food safety and food security.”