Many diseases, currently exotic to Australia, would have a catastrophic impact on our primary industries, including livestock and cropping. Regardless of where an outbreak might occur, all Australian producers will be impacted by loss of international markets and flooding product on domestic markets. When you think about what you can do at a property level, here are some things you should consider:
Many viruses and bacteria can be carried by people and while the risk of infection might be low, it is not zero.
Viruses and bacteria can be carried in animal products such as salami and bacon for extended periods.
Viruses, bacteria and other pests can also be carried on plant material, in dirt on boots or clothing, or on straw or in soil for extended periods.
Know where your risks are:
If you are employing people from other countries, or if you or your staff are travelling, please check the disease status (e.g. Foot and Mouth Disease, African swine fever, Covid-19) status of the country to know your risk.
Google FAO plant pests and disease to get the most up-to-date information about bacterial and viral diseases, or pest concerns of plants.
Strategies to reduce risk of exposure and spread
Quarantine/isolation for people is the best barrier to prevent an emergency disease outbreak. Consider increasing the time between leaving other countries and being in contact with your livestock. This might include an overnight stay in the port of arrival.
Delay contact with stock by anyone who has recently travelled.
Working clothes and boots that have left the property need to be thoroughly cleaned and inspected to make sure there is no dirt or organic material. Provide appropriate disinfection for shoes and insist on work clothes being washed regularly. Google virus and bacterial disinfection for more information.
Make sure that work clothes and boots are left on the property when anyone travels overseas, whether you or your staff. This will reduce the chance of bringing back contaminated work gear.
Make sure staff are not bringing in or receiving via post processed meats, plants or seeds from overseas.
Resource: Overseas staff induction form
Don’t just rely on border control. Have a farm strategy.
This article was produced as part of the FMD Ready project, supported by Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA), through funding from the Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment as part of its Rural R&D for Profit program, and by producer levies from Australian FMD-susceptible livestock (cattle, sheep, goats and pigs) industries and Charles Sturt University (CSU), leveraging significant in-kind support from the research partners.
The research partners for this project are the Commonwealth Science and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), CSU through the Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation, the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) and the Australian Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment, supported by Animal Health Australia (AHA).
Photo credit: Dan Paris