For much of the first two months of 2019, we have been comprehending the havoc that floods and drought can wreak on our industry.
Yet in recent weeks we’ve also been reminded of an even greater potential disaster for Australian cattle producers.
Meat confiscated at Australian airports by the Department of Agriculture in recent months was detected for both Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) and African Swine Fever (ASF).
Meanwhile, the FMD outbreak in South Africa has seen China immediately suspend the importation of South African wool - a frightening insight into what an outbreak in Australia could mean for our export industries.
Australia invests significantly in biosecurity control measures to mitigate against the exotic diseases like FMD and ASF.
The recent detections in Australia do not necessarily mean the fragments of virus detected could cause infection, nor do they change Australia’s FMD-free and ASF-free status.
The detections demonstrate our biosecurity system is working and reinforce the importance of continued risk management and compliance with our biosecurity requirements.
FMD alone is considered the biggest threat to Australia’s livestock industry. A 2013 report by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences, estimated that the direct impact of a large multi-state FMD outbreak in Australia would cost about $50 billion over 10 years.
And if we had such as outbreak, it would cause major social and economic damage, with impacts far wider than just on livestock industries.
Australia imposes strict import requirements for product that could be contaminated with exotic diseases, and countries that are not free from FMD or ASF must not send high-risk products such as fresh pork meat to Australia.
FMD is present in many Asian countries including China, although it is not present in our closest neighbour, Indonesia. And when ASF was confirmed in China last year, the Australian Government ramped up its screening and testing regimes.
It is important for livestock owners to be aware of the risk associated with exotic diseases such as ASF and FMD and, thankfully, more and more producers have good on-farm biosecurity measures in place, including entry controls and visitor logs.
Meat & Livestock Australia is helping producers to boost on-farm disease surveillance through a program called the FMD Ready Project.
The project aims to keep Australia FMD-free by strengthening preparedness for any emergency animal disease outbreak, while also aiming to help facilitate an earlier return to trade for Australia following control of such a disease.
Now is a good time for producers to undertake or revise staff training regarding biosecurity arrangements. If you don’t have these measures in place, go online to see how this can be applied to your farm: www.farmbiosecurity.com.au