A written plan to respond to disease outbreaks for your livestock operation is like insurance. You hope you never need it. You may never need it. But if there is an outbreak, the economic survival of your livestock operation might depend on having that plan.

Planning and prevention are the best insurance against an outbreak, says University of Missouri Extension economist Ray Massey.

Disease in a livestock operation spreads quickly. Animal and economic losses can be catastrophic. The Iowa Farm Bureau Federation estimated losses in that state from a 2015 avian flu outbreak at $1.2 billion, including 8,400 lost jobs. Some economists estimated the loss at triple that. “These are big dollars,” Massey says.

When viruses such as avian flu or PEDV strike, livestock operations lose productivity for about six months, Massey says. “This means that the livestock operator might be without income. Animals have died or been quarantined.”

Worse yet, operators may incur extra expenses for veterinary bills, installation of new biosecurity systems, composting dead animals and carcass removal.

If you need a line of credit during this period, a written disease-outbreak plan helps present your case to the bank for a loan extension or new loan. “Have a plan for the worst-case scenario,” Massey says. “The plan tells your banker that you want to stay in business. The bank is more likely to see you as a wise businessman who has shown foresight.”

The best plan of action against disease outbreaks continues to be everyday prevention and preparedness, Massey says. However, when disease strikes, be ready with a written plan.