The purpose of this study was to determine baseline knowledge and identify knowledge gaps of farmers on biosecurity, risk of transmission of transboundary diseases and large ruminant health and production in three provinces of northern Laos, Hua Phan (HP), Luang Prabang (LPB) and Xieng Khoung (XK). The survey was conducted in six villages that are project sites for an Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) project, with two villages located in each of the three provinces. A census survey was conducted by interview with all 238 farmers participating in the ACIAR project, using a structured questionnaire. The interviews were conducted in Lao language and took 1–2 h per farmer. The answers were recorded in Lao and the survey data were translated into English and transcribed into Microsoft Excel, and a linear mixed model in the Genstat statistical analysis package was used to compare quantitative traits between the target provinces. The results showed that the prediction mean of farmer knowledge scores on parasitic disorders, infectious disease, reproduction and nutrition management were significantly different between the target provinces. The prediction mean of farmer knowledge scores on infectious disease questions ranged between 5.11 in HP to 8.54 in XK of 24 marks (P < 0.001). The prediction mean of total knowledge scores was 13.48 in LPB and 19.29 in XK of 42 marks (P < 0.001). The results indicate both the need for and scope required to attain improvements in farmer knowledge of large ruminant health and production. It was concluded that a participatory research and extension programme to address village-level biosecurity and reduce disease risks, plus enhance large ruminant production capabilities of smallholder producers, is a valid and potentially important strategy to address transboundary disease risk and rural poverty in northern Laos.