Maria Rodrigues da Costa

WG2 leader
Scotland's rural college
United Kingdom
Working Groups: WG1, WG2
Scientific Expertise: Prevention and treatment of infection by pathogens (e.g. vaccination, antibiotics, fungicide); Agriculture related to animal husbandry, dairying, livestock raising, animal welfare; Veterinary medicine (miscellaneous)
Contribution: Current work being developed at the Epidemiology Research Unit (SRUC) includes surveying and improving the uptake of biosecurity measures in Scottish livestock using a socio-epidemiological framework model. This work is led by Dr. Kate Stephen (social scientist) and will use a farmer-centric approach to promote improvements in the health of Scottish livestock through increased uptake of biosecurity practices. The framework will be applied in three case studies: Health Planning for Paratuberculosis, Porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus (PRRS) and Biosecurity Practices in Remote and Island Upland Farms. These discrete case studies will provide in depth analysis of the constraints and drivers of adoption of better biosecurity practices, in particular the holistic assessment of diseases on the sociological, economic and epidemiological dimensions. Likewise, I believe that this work can be of use and can contribute to fulfilling the objectives of working groups 1 and 2.
Motivation: The improvement of biosecurity across Scotland and the UK is a matter of national interest that promotes higher health and welfare standards, as well as safeguards the sustainability of the industry and the livelihood of farmers. At my current position, I am responsible for engaging with the Scottish and UK pig industries, for administering existing health schemes with the support of the industry, and for developing and leading new initiatives for the benefit of the Scottish pig sector. Participating in this network will allow me develop meaningful biosecurity projects for the Scottish and UKís pig sectors, aligning our strategy and feeding it back to an international consortium of experts.
Scientific Background: My scientific background as a veterinarian and a researcher with interest in pig health and welfare is of relevance for this COST Action. In particular, my PhD thesis focused on the main factors affecting pig production in Ireland, including biosecurity. In this work, I described the biosecurity status of Irish pig farms, investigated which biosecurity aspects were critical and studied its impact on performance. These practices were assessed using the Biocheck.UGentTM scoring tool. The results were fedback to Irish farmers to improve their biosecurity standards and to their vets in order to address farmsí health status. One of the main lessons learnt from this study was the importance of farmersí attitudes and behaviours towards biosecurity, rather than the implementation of a rigid set of measures alone.