The recent outbreak of white spot disease among native prawn populations off the Queensland coast, highlights the fragility of our animal industries to any infection by an exotic disease.
Bio-security is of vital interest to all agricultural businesses in Australia, and it is in all our interests for all industries to have biosecurity plans and protocols in place to protect against disease introduction and spread.
To form a better understanding of current biosecurity awareness and practices among the emerging livestock industries, Animal Health Australia (AHA) has teamed with Charles Sturt University, Wagga Wagga (CSU) and The Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation, Wagga Wagga to develop biosecurity resources and emergency animal disease preparedness information specific to their needs.
New and emerging livestock industries including apaca, dairy goat, dairy sheep, deer, emu, fibre goat, kangaroo, rabbit, ostrich, buffalo, redclaw, crocodile, game bird, turkey, camel, duck and marron, are under consideration in this study.
The project, which is being funded by the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation commenced with research undertaken by the university and led by Senior Lecturer for Veterinary Epidemiology and Public Health, CSU, Wagga Wagga Dr Marta Hernandez-Jover.
Dr Hernandez-Jover reaffirmed that there was a need for better biosecurity information for these unique industries.
“In some instances, they might be a bit different to our traditional sheep and beef producers, but at the end of the day their animal health and management practices could be similar,” she said.
“They are producing animals for human consumption, so we have to make sure we all have the same principles of biosecurity and we protect them from the entry of disease and also protect other industries or properties from the spread of disease.”
Dr Hernandez-Jover said the overall aim of the project is developing an understanding of the current level of awareness among producers in emerging livestock industries, and to develop relevant extension and education programs.
“The understanding of what biosecurity means is quite high and similar to the experience and knowledge of mainstream industries, but of course there is always some room for improvement,” she said.
“In some cases there is not an established industry body to represent their interests, so they are missing the communication networks other industries take for granted.”
Dr Hernandez-Jover said the motivation for keeping their animals depends on the individual’s preference, and it is the same with their choice of information source.
“Government agencies are doing an excellent job in getting the message through, but we also have to engage with those partners who are trusted sources of information by the producers,” she said.
“Private vets are seen as knowledgeable and producers rely on their advice and they also trust livestock agents and rural suppliers.”
Overall, Dr Hernandez-Jover said we must be certain, as animal health professionals, all producers are taken into consideration, and we account for all the differences within and between industries.
“With all of these projects we always have foot and mouth disease in mind as it would be the most devastating disease to infect our livestock industries,” she said.
Dr Hernandez-Jover pointed out the quicker and earlier the disease is detected and controlled, the less impact will be felt by the economy, producers and everybody.
“Market access is one of the big issues with foot and mouth disease, and our markets would be closed and it would take a significant period of time to regain our place in those markets after we eradicate the disease,” she said.
“The better we prevent something coming in and spreading the better protected we will be.”
That is why it is important to understand the difference in attitudes and motivation between producers, according to Dr Hernandez-Jover as she raised the question … how can animal health professionals help … at a government level and at an industry level to support producers committed to the emerging livestock industries?
“To do that we have to understand what is actually happening on the ground to develop the best strategies,” she said.
“This project fits within a bigger portfolio which our team at CSU is working with on biosecurity research, which includes studying the social drivers of biosecurity.”
Dr Hernandez-Jover is trained as a veterinarian focused on the study of animals, but is fascinated by the reasoning of people.
“Understanding the decisions of people is extremely important for anything we do,” she said.
“It is very important we understand producers needs and wants, and how they deal with things,” she said.
“Then we can have an effective system that protects our industries and economy.”