What the livestock industry can learn from COVID-19

COVID-19's biosecurity lessons for the livestock industry

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Animal Health Australia biosecurity extension manager Emily Buddle believes the livestock industry can learn a lot from the handling of the COVID-19 crisis.

Animal Health Australia biosecurity extension manager Emily Buddle believes the livestock industry can learn a lot from the handling of the COVID-19 crisis.

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There are a lot of lessons the Australian livestock industry can take from the COVID-19 pandemic.

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There are a lot of lessons the Australian livestock industry can take from the COVID-19 pandemic.

That's according to Animal Health Australia biosecurity extension manager Emily Buddle, who was presenting at AgriWebb's recent Sheep Innovation Day.

Ms Buddle said COVID-19 had sent shockwaves throughout the globe, and an emergency animal disease outbreak could result in similar repercussions for the livestock industry.

She said there were three practices producers should employ to prevent their risk of an outbreak, which would in turn support the entire supply chain.

Those were prepare, monitor and respond.

She said prevention was always better than cure which was why the first step - preparation - was so important.

She said Australia's federal and state governments had worked tirelessly to prevent further spread of COVID-19.

This included enforcing strict border measures, ensuring people were social distancing, maintaining good hygiene and wearing masks.

She said livestock producers needed to implement preventative measures like this on their own farms to reduce their risk of an animal disease outbreak.

"Throughout COVID-19, everything we have been asked to do has been related to biosecurity, whether it's washing our hands or maintaining physical distance," she said.

"Livestock biosecurity is just as important as it underpins our productivity, maintains market access, gives consumers confidence and protects our natural environment."

She said producers should take accountability for their properties and do their best to protect them.

"Much like Australia closing its borders and states closing their borders, livestock producers should consider the fences surrounding their property their border," she said.

"Ensure your sheep can't go walkabouts to the neighbours' place and vice-versa."

Producers should also use all of the relevant documentation to minimise their risk of an outbreak - like a National Sheep Health Declaration.

"These are designed to provide the purchaser with the history of the animals; it's always handy to have these when you're integrating new animals onto your farm," she said.

She said just like how human travellers had to go through a 14-day quarantine to reduce the risk of potentially spreading COVID-19, producers should do the same with their sheep.

"Keeping animals from old animals for a recommended 28 days will allow those new animals to be monitored for any signs of disease and to treat if necessary, before passing it onto the rest of your flock," she said.

READ MORE: Animal disease threat increasing but Australia is well-placed

Ms Buddle said you should also be frequently monitoring your livestock.

"Test for conditions that may be prevalent in your region, even if your livestock don't show any symptoms," she said.

"Just like how much testing's been done for COVID-19."

She said despite every biosecurity prevention and monitoring measure you do, the threat of a disease outbreak was always looming.

So you needed to ensure you were prepared to respond in a timely manner.

"Most of Australia recognises COVID-19 as very serious and have rallied to contain the spread," she said.

"If there's a disease outbreak, everyone is responsible for ensuring the disease is controlled, maintained or eradicated.

"If you see any signs or symptoms that are serious or unusual, contact your vet or the emergency animal disease hotline straight away."

She said there were still going to be "bad eggs" - just like there were in COVID-19, with people hiding in trucks to cross the border illegally.

"The same thing happens at international borders, with people not declaring animal or plant materials," she said.

She said every producer should have a biosecurity plan.

"Just like in COVID-19, where to welcome back staff and customers, businesses need a COVID-safe plan, biosecurity plans are essential in reducing and minimising the risk of disease," she said.

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The story What the livestock industry can learn from COVID-19 first appeared on Farm Online.

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