A CLEARING sale west of Kojonup has been blamed for 15 properties being placed under quarantine for footrot, prompting calls for stock agents and farmers to increase their vigilance.
About 4500 sheep were advertised for the Muradup clearing sale on November 15 with the Agriculture Department later finding that several lines had been infected with footrot.
Agriculture Department director general Dr Graeme Robertson said the use of voluntary vendor declaration forms could have prevented the disease from reaching other properties.
"The Department strongly recommends that owners or selling agents inspect sheep at least three weeks before clearing sales," he said.
"Any suspect footrot lesions found can then be checked at a laboratory and appropriate action taken."
He said a major outbreak had been averted by prompt action of a stock inspector alerting buyers to the footrot risk and preventing further spread of the disease.
"Fortunately many of the farmers who purchased sheep at the Kojonup clearing sale quickly isolated the introduced sheep and therefore limited or prevented spread to their own flock," Dr Robertson said.
The recently released Sheep and Goat Industries StockGuard Biosecurity Plan and Farmnote 43/2002 provided advice on best practice biosecurity measures.
The Department has also distributed vendor declaration forms and brochures to all stock agents who could request vendors complete the form so they can be made available to prospective purchasers.
The State Footrot Eradication Campaign Advisory Committee (FECAC) has in the past recommended that, where possible, sheep sold at clearing sales should be inspected beforehand.
This was because farmers generally bought sheep from clearing sales with a fair degree of confidence the sheep would be disease free.
Another recommendation was that cull sheep could be sent to abattoirs with footrot surveillance several weeks before a clearing sale.
Under the Stock Diseases Act, it was an offence to knowingly sell livestock with a notifiable disease such as footrot.
The Department recently submitted a request to Australian Wool Innovation for $3 million in funding assistance to help eradicate footrot in WA by 2014.