The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) Manual of Diagnostic Tests and Vaccines for Terrestrial Animals describes a diverse array of assays that can be used to detect, characterise and monitor the presence of infectious agents of farmed livestock. These methods have been developed in different laboratories, at different times, and often include tests or kits provided by the commercial sector. Reference panels are essential tools that can be used during assay development and in validation exercises to compare the performance of these varied (and sometimes competing) diagnostic technologies. World Organisation for Animal Health Reference Laboratories already provide approved international standard reagents to help calibrate diagnostic tests for a range of diseases, but there remain important gaps in their availability for comparative purposes and the calibration of test results across different laboratories. Using foot and mouth disease (FMD) as an example, this review highlights four specific areas where new reference reagents are required. These are to: reduce bias in estimates of the diagnostic sensitivity and inter-serotypic specificity of tests used to detect diverse strains of FMD virus (FMDV), provide bio-safe positive controls for new point-of-care test formats that can be deployed outside high containment, harmonise FMDV antigens for post-vaccination serology, and address inter-laboratory differences in serological assays used to measure virus-specific FMD antibody responses. Since there are often limited resources to prepare and distribute these materials, sustainable progress in this arena will only be achievable if there is consensus and coordination of these activities among OIE Reference Laboratories.