Safeguarding Australia’s Agricultural Industry
At the recent WagyuEdge Conference in April, Chris Parker delivered an enlightening presentation on emergency disease response in Australia. With a focus on Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) and Lumpy Skin Disease (LSD), Chris emphasized the evolving nature of biosecurity threats and the importance of collective efforts in protecting Australia’s agricultural industry.
It is essential for Australia to have a well-developed biosecurity system to protect the agricultural industry from the risks of pests and diseases. In 2021-2022, the Australian agricultural, fisheries and forestry exports reached an estimated record of $76 billion. Currently, Australia is free of many pests and diseases that affect animal production and welfare overseas due to factors such as our geographical isolation, our stringent biosecurity and quarantine procedures and national disease eradication and surveillance programs. Not to mention our strong partnerships between governments and the entire industry on animal health.
The Australian Government has recently released the national biosecurity strategy that provides a collective vison for Australia’s future biosecurity and will help protect Australia’s way of life. This strategy talks about being connected and resilient while sharing the responsibility of the nation’s biosecurity.
Firstly, Chris introduced how the Emergency Animal Disease (EAD) threats to Australia are changing due to climate change, decreasing biodiversity, shifting trade and travel patterns, Changing land uses, Illegal activity, and Major global disruptions.
Climate change is altering ecosystems, creating more favorable conditions for disease transmission. For instance, the spread of the blue tongue virus (BTV) has expanded due to increased suitability of its insect vectors. As diseases are no longer confined to specific regions, Australia must be prepared to address new threats effectively.
Declining biodiversity affects ecosystem resilience, making them more susceptible to disease outbreaks. Practices like monocropping and large-scale cultivation reduce natural buffers against pests and diseases. Therefore, Australia requires greater vigilance and proactive measures to maintain high biosecurity levels.
Shifting Trade and Travel Patterns:
Increased international travel and trade poses many challenges in managing biosecurity risks. The surge in passenger numbers and changes in trade methods has created challenges at our boarders. For example, shipping containers can be contaminated on the outside and the inside. Ensuring the integrity of Australia’s biosecurity system requires addressing these evolving trade and travel patterns.
Changing Land Uses:
The increase in proximity between urban and rural areas heightens the need for enhanced biosecurity measures due to the potential threats to agricultural biosecurity. Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) is an example where urban contaminants, could lead to a significant outbreak if introduced to susceptible animals.
Illicit imports of biosecurity-risk products, often driven by exotic markets, contribute to the spread of pests and diseases. These illegal activities undermine Australia’s biosecurity system which then requires increased monitoring and penalties to prevent the entry of high-risk items.
Major Global Disruptions:
Global disruptions, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, highlight the vulnerability of supply chains to biosecurity risks. For example, an import of slate tiles from China brough with it an infestation of brown marmorated stink bugs that are exotic to Australia and are a huge environmental pest. Although the shipment came from a province and a port in China that Australia had never had an issue with before, the shipment was unloaded so the containers could be used elsewhere. The slates were left unproperly stored for 3 months before reaching Australia which meant they became contaminated. Unforeseen infestations, like this underscore the need for robust inspection and quarantine measures.
Increasing biosecurity risks overseas:
The occurrence of pest and disease outbreaks, such as Lumpy Skin Disease (LSD) and Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD), has seen a notable rise overseas. These outbreaks present a significant risk to Australia, highlighting the importance of effective control measures and maintaining high biosecurity standards.
Chris went on the describe the importance of knowing and understanding the clinical signs of FMD and LSD as these diseases are a huge risk to Australian trade. Their presence would be detrimental as we export 70% of out agricultural produce and if we were to have an outbreak of FMD for example, it would cost us more than $80 billion, Chris said “the market would shut overnight”.
Foot and Mouth Disease affects cloven-hoofed animals such as cattle, pigs, sheep, and goats. FMD can cause severe production losses and has substantial economic consequences due to trade restrictions imposed on affected countries.
The clinical signs of FMD include:
- Reluctance to move
- Blisters and ulcers
The potential introduction of FMD into Australia could have catastrophic consequences for the agricultural industry, as the country heavily relies on export markets for its livestock products.
Lumpy Skin Disease, caused by a virus of the poxvirus family, primarily affects cattle, and creates significant economic losses in the livestock industry.
The clinical signs of LSD include:
- Firm, raised nodules up to 50mm in diameter on the head, neck, genitals and limbs
- Swollen limbs, brisket, genitals
- Watery eyes
- Decreased appetite
- Reluctance to move
Chris highlighted Australia’s collaborative efforts with the governments of Indonesia and neighboring countries to address the biosecurity risks. Specifically, Indonesia has implemented a response strategy that encompasses various measures to combat the spread of Lumpy Skin Disease (LSD) and Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD). These measures include decontamination procedures, quarantine protocols, movement restrictions, vaccination programs, and vector control strategies (LSD). Additionally, zoning strategies are being implemented to effectively manage and contain the spread of the disease within specific areas. Such coordinated efforts between countries play a crucial role in mitigating the biosecurity risks and protecting the livestock industry from the impact of LSD and FMD.
Australia is actively assisting Indonesia in strengthening its biosecurity response capabilities. This support includes technical advice, provision of FMD and LSD vaccines, necessary supplies, education and communication, staff training, funding, and emergency field missions. Collaborative efforts with neighboring countries are essential for managing and containing disease outbreaks effectively. Australia is also committed to bolstering the preparedness of neighboring countries for FMD and LSD. By sharing knowledge, resources, and best practices, Australia aims to build a more resilient regional biosecurity network.
$14 million to provide emergency funding for frontline biosecurity preparedness and support near neighbors
$10 million biosecurity support package for Indonesia
$1.1 million to enhance biosecurity capacity in Indonesia’s commercial feedlot sector
Australia’s Biosecurity Plan:
Australia’s biosecurity plan involves a comprehensive and multifaceted approach to safeguarding the nation’s borders and agriculture. The establishment of the Emergency Animal Disease Preparedness (EADP) Joint Task Force showcases the government’s commitment to proactive measures and the Senate inquiry further reinforces the emphasis on continuous improvement and preparedness. Effective communication, through platforms such as social media channels, plays a vital role in raising awareness of disease control and collaboration with industry partners ensures a coordinated response and optimal resource allocation. In terms of import control, Australia has imposed bans on certain products while expanding screening efforts at airports and mail centres. Increased vigilance across flights, supported by communication campaigns, aids in the early detection of biosecurity risks. The deployment of detector dogs and foot mats at airports contributes to enhanced border protection. Regular review of import permits ensures stringent compliance with biosecurity standards. The establishment of biosecurity response zones further strengthens the country’s ability to contain and manage potential outbreaks effectively.
$11.7 million to expand our detector dog capability at the boarder
National LSD Action Plan
The implementation of the National LSD Action Plan and research into vaccine options are key priorities which will help to bolster readiness. The National LSD Action Plan demonstrates a collaborative effort between the Australian government and industry representatives, aiming to effectively address the challenges posed by Lumpy Skin Disease (LSD). International engagement is emphasized, fostering collaboration with global partners to exchange knowledge, best practices, and research findings. Diagnostic capability is strengthened to ensure rapid and accurate detection of LSD cases, facilitating prompt response and containment and well-developed surveillance systems are implemented to monitor and track the spread of the disease. Awareness and communication efforts are integral to inform the industry and the public about LSD, its risks, and preventive measures. Finally, the National LSD Action Plan addresses recovery measures, focusing on supporting affected farmers and the restoration of agricultural operations following the unlikely case of an LSD outbreak. By covering these factors, the plan provides a comprehensive framework to tackle LSD and minimize its impact on Australia’s livestock industry.
What can you do for Australia’s biosecurity?
Farmers and those involved in the agricultural industry play an important role in ensuring national biosecurity as it is a shared responsibility. It is crucial for producers to remain alert without being alarmed and take proactive measures to protect their properties. One important step is to create a comprehensive biosecurity plan for their farms.
Visit farmbiosecurity.com.au, for valuable resources and guidance for developing an effective biosecurity plan. Testing and refining the plan is essential to ensure its effectiveness.
Farmers should be aware of who is entering their property and what is being brought onto it. This biosecurity strategy not only safeguards against specific threats like FMD and LSD but also other endemic diseases. It is important to familiarize yourself with the clinical signs of emergency animal diseases like FMD and LSD as Signs consistent with these diseases must be reported to the Emergency Animal Disease (EAD) Watch Hotline on 1800 675 888 or your local veterinarian.
Watch Dr Chris Parkers full presentation on our Vimeo Video Series HERE.