FARMERS should treat their boundary fences the same way they expect the federal government to protect our national borders, says David Palmer, chairman of the Livestock Biosecurity Network (LBN).
The former managing director of Meat and Livestock Australia wants producers to turn their farms into fortresses against the incursion of pests and diseases.
He said the LBN, although small and lean, was having success raising awareness about the beneficial impact that good on-farm biosecurity management has on producers' bottom lines.
The LBN’s main aim was to encourage farmers to better understand the value of their livestock assets and the need to adopt biosecurity practices that improved animal welfare and productivity as well as reducing costs, he said.
The LBN was established nationally in 2013 as a three-year pilot program by the Sheepmeat and Cattle Councils of Australia and WoolProducers Australia with the support of $5 million in grower transaction levies held in trust.
The peak livestock and wool councils were responding to rising industry concerns about the impact of diseases and pests on the farming economy.
At the top of Australia’s farm biosecurity risk management programs is ensuring we are well prepared for an outbreak of disastrous exotic diseases, notably foot and mouth, but keeping endemic diseases and pests such as lice, footrot, OJD and invasive weeds off farms are also essential for healthy and profitable farms.
Mr Palmer said the performance of the LBN would be independently reviewed at the end of this year or early in 2016 and while he personally didn't support any major expansion he believed the network could have an important ongoing role in changing attitudinal behaviour to biosecurity among producers and others in the supply chain, such as agents, stock carriers and saleyard operators.
The LBN’s six regional officers strategically located around the country had been building networks with existing organisations involved in biosecurity such as departments of agriculture, farm organisations, farmer groups, agribusinesses and stock agents, Mr Palmer said.
The LBN was using these public/private partnerships to roll out initiatives, workshops and projects aimed at improving farmer awareness of biosecurity risks as well as the practices that minimised them, he said.
The LBN officers were also helping co-ordinate specific biosecurity programs to tackle problems and issues raised by farmers in their region such as wild dog and lice control and better preparing stock for road transport to markets and abattoirs.
“The LBN is about money. It’s about helping farmers protect their livestock assets which, in some cases, are worth millions of dollars,” Mr Palmer said.