Mock disease outbreak reveals wool industry shortcomings

Mock disease outbreak reveals wool industry shortcomings

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BIOSECURITY CONCERNS: There are estimates even a small foot and mouth outbreak, even if controlled in three months, could cost about $7.1 billion.

BIOSECURITY CONCERNS: There are estimates even a small foot and mouth outbreak, even if controlled in three months, could cost about $7.1 billion.

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A fictitious foot and mouth disease outbreak was triggered across three woolgrowing properties in southern New South Wales late last year to see how the industry coped.

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A fictitious foot and mouth disease outbreak was triggered across three woolgrowing properties in southern New South Wales late last year to see how the industry coped.

The wool industry needs some beefing up, the mock exercise found.

Exercise Argonaut was designed to help improve wool industry preparedness and response.

The wool industry and government agencies came together virtually for the exercise in October to explore the roles and responsibilities each would have in the event of a real emergency affecting the wool industry.

The single biggest threat to the sheep industry's sustainability is an outbreak of an emergency animal disease like foot and mouth.

There are estimates even a small foot and mouth outbreak, even if controlled in three months, could cost about $7.1 billion.

Sheep Producers Australia and WoolProducers Australia have implemented a series of animal health policies at state and national levels to guard against threats to the industry's biosecurity.

Participants to the exercise came away "with some key learnings and ideas around how the wool industry can enhance its Emergency Animal Disease preparedness".

A report from that exercise was released in the past week showing where improvements were necessary.

The report, compiled by WoolProducers, WoolProducers and Animal Health Australia, said the framework for a successful wool industry response already exists and it also recommended how to strengthen these arrangements:

  • Refining communications both in a response and in peace-time
  • WoolProducers to establish an industry emergency animal disease working group
  • Need for enhanced wool traceability system

WoolProducers chief executive Jo Hall said: "Exercise Argonaut involved representatives from the entire domestic supply chain as well as state and Commonwealth government representatives, as we feel it is really important that key stakeholders understand what will happen to the industry if we are ever faced with an EAD outbreak."

Along with representatives from WoolProducers and AHA, participants represented industry groups including the Australian Council of Wool Exporters and Processors; Australian Wool Exchange; Australian Wool Innovation; Australian Wool Testing Authority; National Council of Wool Selling Brokers; National Farmers Federation; NSW Farmers Association; Victorian Farmers Federation; Wool Industries Australia and AWH, along with representatives from the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment, NSW Department of Primary Industries, Local Land Service and AgVic.

"We believe that Exercise Argonaut was very useful for the Australian wool industry in terms of clarifying roles and responsibilities in an EAD outbreak," Ms Hall said.

Several of the observer participants from other industries have since indicated that they will undertake similar training, having seen the value of undertaking such an exercise.

WoolProducers are working with AHA to develop a workplan for the implementation of these actions and will work with other industry stakeholders going forward to ensure the wool industry is as prepared as possible for an EAD.

The story Mock disease outbreak reveals wool industry shortcomings first appeared on Farm Online.

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