Quantifying cost of disease in livestock: a new metric for the Global Burden of Animal Diseases


Background: Increasing awareness of the environmental and public health impacts of expanding and intensifying animal-based food and farming systems creates discord, with the reliance of much of the world's population on animals for livelihoods and essential nutrition. Increasing the efficiency of food production through improved animal health has been identified as a step towards minimising these negative effects without compromising global food security. The Global Burden of Animal Diseases (GBADs) programme aims to provide data and analytical methods to support positive change in animal health across all livestock and aquaculture animal populations.

Methods: In this study, we present a metric that begins the process of disease burden estimation by converting the physical consequences of disease on animal performance to farm-level costs of disease, and calculates a metric termed the Animal Health Loss Envelope (AHLE) via comparison between the status quo and a disease-free ideal. An example calculation of the AHLE metric for meat production from broiler chickens is provided.

Findings: The AHLE presents the direct financial costs of disease at farm-level for all causes by estimating losses and expenditure in a given farming system. The general specification of the model measures productivity change at farm-level and provides an upper bound on productivity change in the absence of disease. On its own, it gives an indication of the scale of total disease cost at farm-level.

Interpretation: The AHLE is an essential stepping stone within the GBADs programme because it connects the physical performance of animals in farming systems under different environmental and management conditions and different health states to farm economics. Moving forward, AHLE results will be an important step in calculating the wider monetary consequences of changes in animal health as part of the GBADs programme.


Gilbert, W., Marsh, T.L., Chaters, G., Jemberu, W.T., Bruce, M., Steeneveld, W., Afonso, J.S., Huntington, B. and Rushton, J. 2024. Quantifying cost of disease in livestock: a new metric for the Global Burden of Animal Diseases. Lancet Planetary Health 8(5): e309–e317.


  • Gilbert, W.
  • Marsh, T.L.
  • Chaters, G.
  • Jemberu, Wudu T.
  • Bruce, M.
  • Steeneveld, W.
  • Afonso, J.S.
  • Huntington, B.
  • Rushton, J.