Growers must be on alert

18 May, 2005 08:45 PM
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BEVERLEY farmer Jeff Murray said good biosecurity practices had an enormous economic benefit for local producers, who relied on supplying livestock to domestic and international markets.

"The Sheepmeat Council of Australia (SCA) has been proactive in ensuring our industry remains free from emergency animal diseases by developing a series of management practices that producers can implement on farm to decrease the risk of a disease entering their property," Mr Murray said.

The Sheepmeat Council of Australia was among 13 major livestock organisations working with the government through Animal Health Australia to reduce the risk of an emergency disease outbreak in Australia.

The national Protect Australian Livestock Campaign has adopted key messages from the Sheepmeat council of Australia's Biosecurity Plan in a range of awareness material such as magnets, posters and flyers.

The information uses eight key points such as: isolate and monitor new stock for a week; limit vehicle access and clean visitors' boots, develop a health plan that includes vaccination, worming and fly control and to also regularly check fences.

Another concern for producers was feral animals, which had the potential to be a big biosecurity threat.

"In a Foot and Mouth Disease situation feral pigs are a big threat, especially in the South West of WA," Mr Murray said.

He thought WA would fare well in the event of a bioterrorist scare.

"WA has a sheep ID program and well set out paper trails which would help in the event of a disease outbreak," Mr Murray said.

"Bio-terrorism is a major concern in Australia.

"Incidents such as the contamination of feed in Portland from animal rights activists, who walk away without conviction were a great threat to Australia's agricultural industries.

"Bio-terrorism is more of a threat than biosecurity at this stage."

Mr Murray, a member of the SCA, said Ovine Johne's disease (OJD) was the biggest threat for WA producers.

He said growers needed to ask for animal health declarations, which were underused in WA despite being readily available through the Agriculture Department and on-line.

Mr Murray asaid cleaning all visitors boots and hands could be a bit over the top, however procedures should be determined on an individual basis.

"There's always things coming around which is something producers need to be aware of," Mr Murray said.

He said WA producers were reporting unusual or abnormal behaviour in their livestock to veterinarians, which was demonstrated in WA's participation in the national residue survey (NRS).

NRS was set up to monitor and report the levels of residues and contaminants in food, inputs to production and the environment; enhancing the value of Australian agricultural industries and maintaining consumer confidence.

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