By Dr Pat Kluver, Livestock Biosecurity Network Manager Biosecurity & Extension
HOPEFULLY, we will never see an outbreak of foot and mouth disease (FMD) in Australia in our lifetime. That is, after all, the aim of our quarantine and on-farm biosecurity protocols.
We have had a number of emergency animal diseases (EAD) in this country over the past 40 years, including equine influenza in 2007, and some serious disease outbreaks in poultry like Newcastle disease and avian influenza. To date they haven’t involved the grazing industries.
The Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) estimates that a small FMD outbreak, controlled in three months, could cost around $A6 billion, while a large outbreak would cost $A52 billion in lost revenue over 10 years.
We haven’t had an outbreak of FMD in Australia for over 100 years, with the last suspected case from an imported bull in Victoria in 1872.
But the lack of an outbreak does not mean we should become complacent. As an industry we need to be vigilant about biosecurity and ready to respond.
The most significant risk of entry of FMD into Australia is through the illegal entry of meat and dairy products. It could also be introduced by international visitors accidentally bringing it in on their boots or clothing. This risk is very real. There were eight million visitors to Australia last year, and around 3.5 million containers and hundreds of millions of mail items come in every year. Not all of them can be inspected.
It is, of course, impossible to put an accurate figure on the chance of an FMD incursion in Australia. However, if we use the accepted assumption from ABARES that it is rare event, an FMD outbreak could be thought of as occurring once every 100 years. If this assumption is right, and you are just taking over the family farm with an expected productive life of 40 to 50 years, then there’s about a 30 to 40 per cent chance you will experience an FMD outbreak in your lifetime.
If this outbreak is not contained early, ABARES predicts the beef price could drop by 80 per cent and stay depressed for 10 years.
The reality is there are simple steps that you can take on your farm that will reduce the likely impact of an FMD outbreak.
Be aware of the risk, report anything unusual in your stock to your local vet or the EAD Watch Hotline on 1800 675 888.
Every livestock producer should have their own on-farm biosecurity plan to help protect their livelihoods from the threats posed by diseases, pests and weeds.
The Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) provides a free online course FMD awareness — Protecting your livelihood and community — which provides information about the risks of FMD to Australia. Click here for more information.
For more information on developing a biosecurity plan, please visit www.lbn.org.au