How do farmers maintain on-farm biosecurity?
Australia is known as one of the safest countries in the world when it comes to biosecurity. Being a whopping big island certainly has its advantages, but there are a number of threats we can prepare for, in order to protect the Australian agricultural industry when it comes to on-farm biosecurity. Does your farm have a biosecurity plan? There are some simple steps you can implement now, that can make a big difference in the future.
The importance of Biosecurity on-farm
Despite best efforts of AQIS, Department of Agriculture and other agencies, sometimes things slip through the net. While there’s little we can do on-farm about things coming in to the country, there are a few simple, low-cost (or free) things on-farm which can be done to reduce the risks of a pest or disease affecting your plants or livestock.
Advantages of Biosecurity
You may already be implementing good biosecurity measures on your farm without even realising it. The new boundary fences you’ve installed, where you buy your fodder or tracking who you purchase livestock from, are all part of supporting biosecurity measures. Whilst good on-farm, biosecurity practices reduce the spread of endemic diseases, they also reduce the risk or financial impact if an outbreak was to occur.
Unless you have been avoiding any type of media, you will have heard about the risk of Varroa mites being detected in New South Wales as well as the threat of Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD).
Australia’s honey industry is valued at over $100 million, but with Varroa mite infestations the industry is under threat. According to the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, WA, “Varroa mite are small, oval-shaped reddish-brown mites that parasitise adult honey bees and the brood. The mites weaken and kill honey bee colonies and can also transmit honey bee viruses.”
So what is FMD?
At the beginning of July 2022, the Australian Government confirmed that cases of FMD had been detected in Bali, Indonesia. According to the ABC News, ”FMD does not pose a risk to human health, but it causes painful blisters in cattle, sheep, pigs and goats and could result in animals being slaughtered en masse to eradicate the highly infectious virus. FMD spreads between animals via their breath, through contact with the blisters, and through infected milk, semen, faeces and urine. The virus can also live on vehicle tyres, clothing and footwear, which is why stricter biosecurity measures are being put in place for travellers returning from Indonesia.”
Whilst Australia has been free of FMD for the lifetime of most of you reading this article, thanks to strong biosecurity measures enforced by the Australian Government, there are still plenty we can do on-farm to support those efforts. Be prepared and vigilant, let’s work together to reduce any potential impact should the worst happen.
How do farmers maintain biosecurity?
Early detection and recognition is important to the eradication of any exotic diseases threatening the livestock industry. There are a number of procedures you can put in place and questions you should ask including:
are livestock inspected for their health status?
Are livestock of unknown health status kept separate from vulnerable stock?
Is stock feed inspected on delivery to ensure it is fit for purpose (e.g., free from pest damage and visual contaminants)? If damaged or contaminated, is there a plan in place for its disposal?
Are owners and staff aware of the importance in minimising the lending and borrowing of equipment between properties?
Are farm contractors such as veterinarians, livestock agents and transport vehicles notified of their permitted areas of access to the farm prior to their entry?
Do you adhere to the NLIS legislation of the relevant state/territory at all times?
You can find a range of templates to assist with creating your biosecurity plan at Farm Biosecurity
New livestock should be put in a quarantine paddock, well away from existing stock for 21-28 days and monitored. If you can, keep this paddock close to the main entrance so you can unload from transport into the assigned paddock without having the truck driving through other production areas. Of course, keep the NLIS database up to date.
Keep an eye on all livestock for signs of illness or disease. Watch for:
- a lot of ill or dead animals including birds or aquatic animals
- rapid spread of disease through a herd or flock
- animals that are lame, drooling or salivating excessively
- animals that have ulcers, erosions or blisters around the feet, muzzle, udder or teats and/or in the mouth
- unusual nervous signs
- respiratory distress or persistent coughing in horses
- deep smelly, fly struck wounds
- any unusual or unfamiliar disease in animals, birds or aquatic animals
Watch out for strays as well – hopefully they don’t bring problems with them.
Restrict visitor vehicles to non-production areas. Vehicles can carry spores, seeds and pests so don’t let them near paddocks, stock, animals or other areas you want to keep weed and disease free.
If you’re permitting a vehicle into production areas, give it a good wash from the top down with a high-pressure washer to get rid of seeds and spores. Of course, do this in an area where the water run off won’t get into waterways or production areas.
Seeds and spores can be carried on clothing and in shoe treads including dirt and mud stuck to shoes. If someone is going into production areas, have them use a footbath to properly scrub and disinfect shoes. You might ask them to wear overalls or other PPE such as shoe covers.
Look for things such as unusual wilting, discolouration or staining. Watch for things like beetles, snails, flies, larvae, or fungal growth. Some plants could look like they have died and browned.
As your crops grow, an inspection every now and then will help you spot and manage any changes. Unusual weeds should be recorded and reported as well.
Feed and other supplies
Know where your feed and other supplies are coming from. Make sure you get the vendor declaration paperwork when feed and supplies arrive on your property. Keep new feed and supplies stored appropriately, separating from existing supplies if possible.
If you see something that doesn’t look right, get some advice.
If you are located in Australia:
For animals, contact your vet or call the Emergency Animal Disease Hotline in 1800 675 888
For plants, your local agronomist could help, or contact the Exotic Plant Pest Hotline on 1800 084 881
In order to support biosecurity efforts of Safe Ag Systems clients, our team have created a Policy and Checklist Template in our program. Contact our team on 08 8490 0939 to find out more. Remember your Biosecurity Plan should be reviewed and updated as advice changes for your region, state or territory.
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Disclaimer: Content on this website may be of relevance to users outside of Australia, but content links and examples are specific to Australia. Please check with your local authority for your country and industry requirements.
Originally published 29 July, 2022.