As you know, our country’s disease-free status is under threat by the nearby infections of Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) and Lumpy Skin Disease (LSD) in Indonesia.
If FMD enters Australia, we will lose our export markets immediately. The costs will be huge, some suggesting over $80 billion. You may be unable to move stock for some time, and if your livestock become infected, the current policy is destruction. Like us, no doubt you’re scared and worried about what could happen. Our farms are more than just an income, they’re our way of life, and we don’t want to see them ruined.
You should not take the threat lightly, but you shouldn’t panic or be overwhelmed either. You can do a lot to protect your property. And yes, the risk has increased, but it has always been there. FMD has been present in India, China, Thailand, Africa, and Vietnam for years. Plus, significant precautions are already in place to protect the industry against these diseases from entering as well as preparations if they do. More than ever, we’re thankful for how incredibly lucky we are to live on this massive island surrounded by ocean.
So, it’s time to be alert, but not alarmed, and if you haven’t already, make a plan for your farm. It’s time to consider how you will keep your farm safe.
What you can do:
- Have a plan.
- Know what the symptoms are.
- Worry about what you can control, not what you can’t.
1. Implement a Plan
- IMPLEMENT A BIOSECURITY PLAN. We should all be doing this as a general practice to prevent the spread of Footrot, lice, resistant worms, and OJD in livestock – not to mention resistant weed seeds in crops! Create a One Biosecurity profile > https://www.onebiosecurity.pir.sa.gov.au/Create-an-Online-Biosecurity-Plan
- Use PIRSA Biosecurity signs – which you can get here: https://livestocksa.org.au/emergency-animal-disease (Tip: Once made with your details, take the pdf and get it manufactured by a signmaker – it will last longer.)
- Your property is your castle. Make sure your borders are well fenced, and capable of keeping your animals in and others out.
- If you have pigs, DO NOT feed them any prohibited meat products or products that have come into contact with meat. The most significant risks of FMD come from swill-feeding pigs, especially in a backyard scenario.
- FMD can travel via animal movements and on any carrier ‘vehicle’, such as dirty boots, tyres, and animal hooves. So if you have people coming by who have been overseas, ask them to leave the footwear they may have used overseas at home. (If you want to be extra vigilant, make all visitors for overseas wait 7 days before they visit your farm.) Plus, hose off any visitor boots before and after. Make sure they are visibly clean with no mud or excrements on them.
- Ask your agronomists (including ours) to leave their ute at your shed, and use yours instead when coming for a paddock check (make sure they have clean boots as well).
- If you share a shearing shed and yards with a neighbour, think about how you could avoid cross-contaminating or how you can come up with another option.
- If you share portable yards, make sure they are sprayed down, cleaned, and disinfected.
- If you share drenching guns, applicators, pour-on equipment – it may be a good time to buy your own.
- If you use contractors, make sure they are following your Biosecurity plan. Ensure everything is disinfected and clean before and after they leave, and have clean, decontaminated equipment.
- Quarantine animals: If you bring in new stock or studs, ensure you’ve done a thorough background check. Also, quarantine them for some time and make sure they are lice-free, drenched and vaccinated if necessary.
- Tip: Try not to trade sheep or reduce trading – buy stock only from reputable producers with clean backgrounds.
2. Know the symptoms:
- Regularly inspect livestock and check their health.
- Symptoms of Foot and Mouth Disease include:
- Cattle, pigs, sheep, buffalo, deer, camelids and goats may show fever, be drooling and will be reluctant to move.
- These animals can suffer from blisters on the mouth, snout, tongue, lips or between and above the hooves on the feet.
- Blisters may be intact or ruptured, exposing raw tissue which is very painful.
- Symptoms of Lumpy Skin Disease include:
- Discharge from the eyes and nose – usually observed first
- Decreased milk yield in lactating cattle
- High fever that may exceed 41 °C
- The appearance of firm skin nodules (lumps) of 2 to 5 cm in diameter, particularly on the head, neck, limbs, udder, genitalia and perineum within 48 hours of onset of fever. The number of lesions varies from a few in mild cases to multiple lesions covering the entire body in severely affected animals.
- Cattle may rapidly lose body condition, and some may need to be euthanased. Those that recover may remain in extremely poor condition for some time.
- Morbidity (sickness) rates vary greatly and typically range between 10–20%. Mortality (death) rates of 1–5% are usual.
- Report any symptoms to your private Vet or the Emergency Animal Disease Watch Hotline 1800 675 888.
- Don’t be lax – and don’t rely on a vaccine. (There is a FMD vaccine. However, if we start vaccinating before the virus is here, there is a good chance we will lose the ‘clean and green’ sticker and lose our markets for meat and wool, even if FMD never arrives.)
3. Most importantly, worry about what you can control. Don’t stress over what you can’t.
- The good news is that FMD is relatively easy to kill. It doesn’t like harsh, hot, dry climates like ours. And it doesn’t like disinfectants like citric acid or even standard cleaning products. (If you put your clothes through a washing machine on a hot wash, it will kill it). It doesn’t like acids. It doesn’t like alkaline. So start a practice of making sure your boots, your livestock agent’s boots, and any other visitor boots are clean.
- If FMD does get into Australia, there will be at least a three-day standstill with no stock movements. So if you have stock, make sure you have enough extra room and feed to hold them for an extended period of time. This isn’t so much an issue for cattle and sheep, but if you have pigs, be aware you may need extra shed room.
- Stick to your plan. In the worst-case scenario, you’ll be prepared to protect your property and livestock. And in the best case, if FMD never enters Australia, implementing a plan won’t cost you millions, and you’ll have taken important steps towards protecting yourself from other threats such as Footrot, lice and OJD.
There’s a lot of information out there on the internet. And it’s easy to become overwhelmed by it all and what you should do.
Start here. We highly suggest starting on the Livestock SA site using the tools and resources from there:
Scroll down this page for a full list of resources.
Also, you may have received emails directly, but if you haven’t – get onto PIRSA’s OneBiosecurity plan found here:
Remember, stress isn’t helpful. It’s not worth diminishing your health over something that may not happen. But that’s easier said than done. Our tip? Don’t sit and stew – the best remedy is to take action. So, what can you do today to help keep your farm safe?