Farmers of all scales, whether smallholders or large production companies, know that animal health and welfare are essential for the sustainable production of animal-sourced food, fibre and draught power, and for their own economic survival. The impact of animal health on the global economy is seen in the ongoing spread of African swine fever, recent outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza, and SARS-CoV-2.
Are we investing wisely?
While outbreaks of highly contagious diseases demand attention, these losses can pale in comparison to the economic, social and environmental burden of common diseases that degrade animal health and productivity every day. Trade-off decisions are continually made on when, where, and how to apply resources to ensure animal health. The most successful producers use field observations and standardised methods to make timely, data-based decisions on how to apply limited resources to achieve the best possible clinical outcomes and economic returns. But much of today’s animal disease information remains privatised and fragmented, and is not collected or analysed consistently enough to support timely action at the national or global level.
From guessing to knowing
Initiatives such as the Global Burden of Animal Diseases (GBADs) programme  can bring public and private data sets together and standardise cost–benefit analyses. Access to integrated data and standardised methods will lead to more equitable, evidence-based analysis that improves prioritisation, cost-effectiveness, and the delivery of animal disease investments, locally, nationally and globally.
Partnerships and programmes
In addition to this call for data integration and standardisation, the authors support the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE)’s position that public- and private-sector partnerships play an essential role in animal health and food animal production [2, 3, 4]. Cross-sector collaboration and GBADs can lead to a greater return on, and prioritisation of, investments to reduce the burden of animal diseases and speed up achievement of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. But, for the private sector to share data, GBADs must help producers with day-to-day operational management. If increased collaboration and GBADs help farmers, farmers will share more data.