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ECONOMICS is concerned with the allocation of scarce resources to competing uses, thereby providing the greatest benefit to society. The benefit can be interpreted in a number of ways, depending on the particular circumstances to which economic principles are applied. Most of the economic benefits can be expressed in monetary terms (eg, more animal products available for sale, a higher price per unit of product and lower production costs) but others cannot be evaluated so easily in monetary terms (eg, reduced risk of human infection with zoonoses) (Thrusfield 2005).
Diseases have a cascade of effects on the productivity of affected animals. The principal direct effect of most diseases is on protein metabolism, with ancillary effects on mineral, vitamin and energy metabolism. As a consequence, animals convert feed less efficiently into useful products. The underlying explanation for the impact of diseases on productive efficiency is that nutrients are used up by the defensive response of the body to disease agents, and by the regeneration process that is required after an animal has been affected by a disease. Moreover, at a herd level, diseases (not only those …