The Importance of Biosecurity
Biosecurity in the spotlight
Biosecurity is a hot topic at present, and it's of no wonder. Indonesia, one of our closest neighbours and biggest trading partners, has confirmed the presence of both FMD - foot and mouth disease, and LSD- lumpy skin disease, in livestock in their country.
This unwelcome news has initiated both state and federal responses, with industry bodies sharing facts, figures and advice broadly to inform producers and public alike.
The outbreaks in Indonesia are particularly worrisome. Not only is Australia and neighbouring island nations like Timor Leste, Torres Strait and PNG within a close proximity to Indonesia, with international borders reopened, there are fears that travellers returning from Bali could create a disease highway for FMD & LSD.
It's been estimated that an incursion (outbreak) of either of these diseases could cost Australian upwards of $50 billion dollars through loss of valuable export markets and livestock losses.
Australia - an island nation
Australia enjoys a good reputation worldwide for its disease free status. Our livestock are readily accepted, for the most part, due to the absence of exotic diseases such as foot and mouth disease, and avian influenza.
Being free from the worst exotic animal diseases allows Australian farmers to produce high quality protein and livestock, knowing that there is always a market for their stock.
Australia has an advantage in that it is an island nation, and anyone or anything that arrives here has to travel by air or sea to reach us. This allows our borders to be securely watched, with all persons, packages, animals and more being screened before entering our country.
If you compare this to other continents, whose physical borders touch other countries, you can see how biosecurity challenges and breaches occur.
And while Australian producers are fortunate to grow and rear livestock in a developed nation with strict biosecurity laws, now is not the time to rest on our laurels.
What is FMD?
The World Health Organisation (WOAH, formerly OIE) describes FMD as follows: "Foot and mouth disease (FMD) is a severe, highly contagious viral disease of livestock that has a significant economic impact. The disease affects cattle, swine, sheep, goats and other cloven-hoofed ruminants. It is a transboundary animal disease (TAD) that deeply affect the production of livestock and disrupting regional and international trade in animals and animal products.
The disease is estimated to circulate in 77% of the global livestock population, in Africa, the Middle East and Asia, as well as in a limited area of South America. Countries that are currently free of FMD without vaccination remain under constant threat of an incursion." World Organisation of Animal Health
How is FMD transmitted between animals?
FMD is a viral disease that spreads rapidly between animals. Virus is excreted in breath, saliva, mucus, milk and faeces. The virus can be excreted by animals for up to four days before clinical signs appear. Animals can become infected through inhalation, ingestion and direct contact. The disease spreads most commonly through the movement of infected animals. In sheep the symptoms can be absent or very mild, and undetected infected sheep can be an important source of infection. FMD virus can also be spread on wool, hair, grass or straw; by the wind; or by mud or manure sticking to footwear, clothing, livestock equipment or vehicle tyres.
Pigs are regarded as ‘amplifying hosts’ because they can excrete very large quantities of the virus in their exhaled breath. Cattle are very susceptible to, and able to be infected by breathing in small quantities of the virus. In some animals (‘carriers’), the virus can continue to be carried for long periods (months or years) after apparent recovery (Source: Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment )
What is Lumpy Skin Disease?
Lumpy skin disease (LSD) is a viral disease of cattle and water buffalo that causes relatively low mortality; however, the disease can result in animal welfare issues and significant production losses.
Infection typically causes an acute disease with fever, depression, and characteristic skin nodules. There may also be a marked reduction in milk yield as well as abortion in pregnant animals (Source: Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment )
How is LSD spread?
The disease is spread primarily by biting insects such as certain species of flies, mosquitoes and possibly ticks. The disease can also be spread by fomites through such things as contaminated equipment and in some cases directly from animal to animal. It does not pose a risk to human health (source: DAWE)
"be alert, not alarmed"
In his address to the Rural Press Club in late May, Red Meat Advisory Council (RMAC) chair John McKillop advised that Australian producers should be "alert but not alarmed" over the looming threat of FMD and LSD, and he highlighted the importance of brushing up on farm biosecurity.
You can read more about his address here.
Brushing up on farm biosecurity
With the threat of these exotic diseases so close by, now is the time for livestock producers and farmers to prepare.
Start by taking a look at your current biosecurity plans and activities. Are you taking precautions already through your daily activities? Can you highlight high risk areas? Do you have existing protocols in place for livestock arrivals? What about visitors? Are they signing in and going through a footbath?
Audit existing Farm Biosecurity Plan or create one
Having a comprehensive on-farm biosecurity plan is integral to keeping ahead of disease. If you need help to start your farm's biosecurity plan, the below links will lead you to helpful templates from both Integrity Systems LPA and farmbiosecurity.com.au
Use these planners to guide the creation of a farm biosecurity plan to suit your individual circumstances.
Disease point of entry
One way that disease can be brought onto farm is through livestock arrivals. Livestock arrivals could be:
- newly purchased livestock from a sale yard or private sale
- livestock returning from agistment/or beginning agistment
- livestock spelling
- outside sires coming for breeding season
- animals returning from shows
These introduced livestock can put existing animals at risk, especially if co-mingled before a quarantine period. Don't risk the health of your established herd, or your pastures.
Quarantining livestock before allowing them into the rest of the property will:
- Allow livestock to recover from transport. Well rested animals look and feel better, which provides a more accurate picture of their health status. It also gives you, the producer, a chance to assess them, their health and process them through the yards if need be
- Allow livestock to empty out, thus eliminating any weed seed from ending up in your paddocks
Quarantine your arrivals
In order to accomodate livestock needing to quarantine, ensure you have enough secure pens for all lines of stock, including bulls who may need to be kept separate.
Ideally, rest livestock in large pens complete with water, shelter and access to feed.
It's important to have internal troughs in your yards (that outside stock don't need to drink from) that can be cleaned thoroughly before livestock arrival and after they have completed their quarantine period.
Secure pens are important - so, quarantine animals behind steel rail as opposed to barb wire.
We recommend the addition of a large receivals yard for all facilities, but especially those who have livestock entering and exiting often. Large steel receival yards are perfect for curfewing livestock before transport and for quarantining new arrivals.
Double check all gates are secured and chained correctly and use a D-shackle if need be.
Monitor the health of arrivals during their quarantine period, in addition to transferring them on the NLIS database.
If you feel your yards aren't up to the task, or you don't have room to quarantine or curfew livestock, then get in touch with us at Arrowquip. We can advise and design livestock yards to suit your individual requirements, site and aspirations.
Call: 1800 814 107 or check us out online at arrowquip.com.au
Department of Agriculture, Water and Resources:
World Organisation of Animal Health:
Emergency Animal Disease Watch Hotline: 1800 675 888.