STOCK transport operators have asked for temporary washdown facilities to be set up urgently near saleyards and other stock movement areas to reduce risk of spreading any foot and mouth disease (FMD) outbreak.
Mark Talbot, Wedderburn Transport, Brunswick Junction, representing the Livestock and Rural Transport Association of WA (LRTAWA), told an FMD information session after last week's WAFarmers dairy conference at Busselton, that stock transport drivers are terrified they will be responsible for spreading an FMD outbreak.
"Our members are sh...ing themselves that they will be the ones responsible for spreading it (FMD) if it gets into WA," Mr Talbot told about 120 people - mostly dairy farmers - and Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) representatives at the information session.
"Our trucks going from farms to saleyards and back out to farms were recognised a long time ago as being a potential biosecurity risk," Mr Talbot said.
"We (LRTAWA) have been asking for more dedicated washdown facilities to be provided so trucks can be cleaned, for at least 15 years now.
"There are only eight official washdown sites in WA - at Kununurra, Geraldton, Muchea, Kalgoorlie, Kojonup, Katanning, Mt Barker and Esperance.
"DPIRD, you've let us down on this," he said in the direction of Beth Green, DPIRD's livestock identification and traceability manager, who was a member of a six-person expert panel brought together by WAFarmers dairy council and Western Dairy for the FMD session.
"We need temporary washdown facilities going as soon as possible," he said.
Mr Talbot told the session his trucks had tanks collecting 200-400 litres of animal effluent per trip to or from a saleyard.
"Most trucks don't have tanks, the effluent just sloshes out onto the roads as we leave the saleyards - we're shockers I'm sorry to have to admit," he said.
"People then drive through it and carry it away on their tyres."
Approved stock truck washdown facilities are fitted with holding tanks, filters and other equipment to treat the dirty water.
Mr Talbot said he had a private washdown facility on his home property where he also ran beef cattle.
He said he would be reluctant to keep returning to his own washdown facility between jobs, if customers began demanding he clean the truck before going onto their property, because of concerns about what diseases he may be bringing onto his own property.
Extra fuel cost, plus the $100 washdown fee, involved in cleaning stock trucks between jobs would have to be passed on to the customer, he said.
In the Gascoyne, Pilbara and Kimberley regions, with currently no approved stock truck washdown facility between Geraldton and Kununurra, the round-trip extra cost to go and wash the truck could run into several thousand dollars, Mr Talbot pointed out.
"If it becomes too hard and too costly to find places to wash trucks between jobs to cut the risk of spreading FMD, a lot of drivers will simply park the stock trailers and go grain carting," he said.
"That's something they (authorities planning a response if there is an FMD incursion into WA) need to factor into their risk assessments."
Members of the panel which, as reported in Farm Weekly, included Michael Rose from FarmWest and Dr Dario Nandapi from Smart Cow Consulting, who travelled to Nepal during an endemic FMD outbreak in 2018 as part of an industry preparedness program, urged all farmers to start recording who came onto their farms immediately.
They suggested all staff and visitors be recorded with contact details so they could be traced if an FMD infection on the property was suspected.
"If there is an outbreak, the first thing you will be asked is who has been on your property in the past fortnight," Dr Nandapi told farmers.
He also suggested farmers going to saleyards took a change of clothes and footwear with them so they did not wear the same clothes and boots around the farm.
Earlier, Agriculture and Food Minister Alannah MacTiernan had told the dairy conference that while an FMD outbreak in Indonesia was a "very big threat" to Australia's livestock industry, it was "important to keep things in perspective and not be running around like headless chooks".
Ms MacTiernan said Australia had a biosecurity plan prepared with extensive input from livestock producers and precautionary border checks had detected food products with traces of dead FMD virus coming in from China and Indonesia over the past four years.
"The opportunity now is there for a very public campaign on how very dangerous it is to bring unauthorised food items into the country or send them through the post," Ms MacTiernan said.
She said the State government had been working closely with the Commonwealth government on improved detection measures and DPIRD was "well prepared" for an FMD incursion into WA.
The minister said two of its senior staff "had personal experience with the UK outbreak" of FMD in 2001.
"There is a high degree of readiness, we have plans in place for how we will deal with it if it gets in," she said.
At the conference and information session, farmers were told if FMD was detected on a property in WA, that property and surrounding properties for an initial radius of three kilometres would be locked down for up to three days while stock and people movements are traced.
Ms MacTiernan said electronic ear tag data would play an important role in tracing stock movements "in a timely fashion".
She also pointed out that if FMD is detected in the Eastern States, she had power to close the State borders if deemed necessary.
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