Don't shoot the footrot sheriff

24 Aug, 2006 07:00 PM
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EXTRA funding and current technology will not help the Agriculture Department fully eradicate footrot in WA under new industry elimination prerequisites.

The Footrot Eradication Campaign Advisory Committee (FECAC) will release ten perquisites by the end of August, which must be met if WA wants total footrot eradication.

The livestock industry has speculated that a lack of Agriculture Department funding is to blame for scant progress toward footrot eradication.

But the Agriculture Department has put their arms up in defence and stated that growers could not dump the blame solely on the department if total footrot eradication could not be achieved in WA. The current footrot eradication program is an industry-initiated program managed by the department.

Agriculture Department animal biosecurity director Ashley Mercy said funding alone was not the limiting factor for footrot eradication in WA.

"We have analysed the prerequisites for a successful eradication campaign and with the current technology, the eradication program does not satisfy most of the prerequisites," Dr Mercy said.

"Even with additional funding, a number of the prerequisites for successful eradication appear to be unsolvable.

"We need to look at this carefully, without anyone throwing blame at anybody."

FECAC chairman Chris Richardson explained some of the prerequisites to Farm Weekly before the official release and why they would make footrot eradication extremely difficult.

"You need to get all these lined up if we are to have a successful eradication program," Mr Richardson said.

"One of the prerequisites is being able to easily identify and diagnose virulent footrot on-farm."

The benign strain of footrot exists on many farms in prevalent areas of the state.

Testing for virulent strains is difficult and time consuming under these circumstances.

The removal of infected animals, prevention of re-infection, infected stray stock and compensation legislation is also expected to be included in the prerequisites.

Mr Richardson said without compensation, many growers would be hesitant to admit to having footrot on their property.

"At the moment there is no incentive for people to put their hand up," he said.

Properties with footrot are quarantined and farmers often suffer financial losses under the present footrot program.

"There needs to be a discussion about the fact that we've spent a lot of money in the past 60 years and if we have not achieved eradication, how much more do we keep spending trying to achieve it?"

An Agriculture Department grower survey, scheduled for this month, will play a major role in determining the course of action for the future of controlling footrot in WA.

"We do believe there should be a plan to go forward and manage footrot," Mr Richardson said.

"But we are asking: what do industry think is the most appropriate way to manage footrot?

"And at the same time recognising the diminishing amount of money government puts in to agriculture each year."

Mr Richardson said it was imperative that industry discussed the issue openly because it was an industry-based concern and not high on the government's biosecurity agenda.

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