Footrot fight needs more money

27 Aug, 2003 10:00 PM
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THE Agriculture Department would need to gain more external funding if it wanted to eradicate footrot in WA by 2014.

Senior departmental veterinarian Tony Higgs said eradication of virulent footrot was technically feasible and economically justified.

He said the program also had legislative backing and operational support.

The target eradication date of 2014 was also on track.

However, Mr Higgs said financial support was a limiting factor.

"There needs to be a network of inspectors and veterinarians and at the moment we have that," he said.

"But in the past 10 years budgets have been declining and the number of people in the field is going down."

Mr Higgs, who heads the department's footrot eradication program, said Australian Wool Innovation (AWI) funding would keep the program running this year. But more funding had to be found.

"With AWI support the program is back on track with the work that needs to be done," he said. "We need enough money to get ahead of the disease."

Mr Higgs said they would seek further funding from AWI as well as from other sources, including WAFarmers and the PGA.

He said their abattoir surveillance program was working well and cost $30 for each line of sheep compared to $200 a line in the paddock.

"Quarantine farmers can be negative about the program because the impact on them is quite significant," he said.

However, a community effort had eradicated footrot in the Boyup Brook shire and producers in the Mt Barker Shire were attempting to do the same.

There were now 260 properties and 190,000 head of sheep under quarantine in WA.

Mr Higgs, who recently addressed the Sheep Updates forum, said footrot caused a $2.95 per head loss of production in a flock of 3000 sheep each year.

The losses were from reduced wool production, loss of body weight, increased fly strike, increased mortality and reduced fertility, and eradication costs.

The eradication cost was $7.41 per head over the same flock size, with the total benefit over the worst affected area in the South West being $44 million over 20 years.

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