FAO Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia

New tool helps estimate the costs of animal disease outbreaks


FAO has presented a new tool that enables countries to assess the financial burden of animal disease outbreaks and their control measures. Known as OutCosT (OUTbreak COSting Tool), the instrument was jointly developed by FAO and researchers of the Autonomous University of Barcelona (Spain). Use of the tool is now being promoted worldwide.

Animal disease outbreaks always come with financial consequences. They have an impact on livestock numbers, farm productivity, food prices, trade restrictions, and economic processes, not to mention the necessary expenditures to bring them under control, which often surpass the direct losses by the disease.

As a spreadsheet-based tool, OutCosT helps to estimate the direct costs of disease outbreaks and their control in a simple, systematic, time- and resource-efficient manner, yet with precision. The tool not only allows for the cost calculation of actual outbreaks (retrospectively), but also future hypothetical outbreak scenarios or to simulate the costs related to alternative management strategies.

At the webinar introducing OutCosT, Daniel Beltrán-Alcrudo, Damián Tago Pacheco, and Jordi Casal were the leading presenters, followed by a question and answer session. Over 100 people attended; the recording is available here.

“Animal diseases come with important socioeconomic consequences at the farm, subnational, national, and regional levels,” said Daniel Beltran-Alcrudo, FAO technical advisor on animal health. “Understanding these costs and attaching a dollar figure is essential for efficient resource allocation, advocacy for politicians and decision makers, and resource mobilization at national, but also international, level.”

Knowing the economic burden of livestock diseases highlights the importance and cost-effectiveness of prevention, early detection and preparedness, i.e., prevention is always better than cure. This can also support and inform disease preparedness and control strategies.

Yet, up until now, the data required to estimate the cost of animal diseases and mitigation actions, despite being usually available, are not routinely collated and analyzed largely due to the lack of a standardized and systematic calculation process. This gap is now filled in by OutCosT, with a detailed guide and final report template that gets automatically populated.

FAO’s OutCosT calculates the costs of 112 different items, broken down by farm type and cost-bearers (whether veterinary services, farmers, or other actors), assessing the direct costs of disease and related control, prevention, and surveillance activities, as well as awareness and training campaigns. The tool also allows users to evaluate qualitatively other important aspects related to the epidemics, such as the impact on human health, the environment, animal welfare, socio-economic vulnerability, trading, and political response.

The tool has been validated with data from four countries in three continents. Available for pig diseases like African swine fever, the tool will also soon be available for cattle, sheep, and goat diseases. The first training on applying the tool will be offered to experts late April via the FAO Virtual Learning Centre.

8 April 2022, Budapest, Hungary