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Sheepmeat Council : Sheepmeat 2012
26 SHEEPMEAT COUNCIL OF AUSTRALIA ANNUAL MUSTER 2012 Keeping the Nasties Out The responsibility for biosecurity in Australia has been placed squarely right across all sectors from the farm gate to processors, to state and federal governments. This was highlighted in the review of the response to the recent introduction of horse flu; the review described a seamless continuum of responsibility with each sector pulling their weight as the best approach. In taking precautions against the introduction of nasties we can deal with the known risks, and have to make judgement calls about the unknown ones. The international principle of assessing these risks is known as arriving at an 'acceptable level of risk'. For example, when considering the risk of buying sheep with Johne's disease, the Sheep Health Statement provides you with a measure of the likely risk, and you make your own judgement of your acceptable level of risk. There are five principles to applying biosecurity for your farm. They follow the philosophy that it is cheaper to prevent a pest gaining access to your farm than it is to eradicate it, and eradication is far easier and cheaper the sooner it is detected. For example, a Victorian producer might isolate rams after purchase, so that if they were found to have footrot, it will be far cheaper to cull them than have to bear the cost of eradicating it from the entire flock. This piece should really be titled ‘Biosecurity for sheep farmers’ but the term biosecurity is often misunderstood. The defnition is ‘the precautions against the spread of lethal or harmful organisms and diseases’ but some defnitions include other things besides plant and animal diseases and pests. In any case, it is really about ‘keeping the nasties out’. Maintain a healthy, productive farm Healthy plants and animals are more resilient to disease invasion, and you will be able to detect changes in their health quicker. Weeds invade bare spaces in pastures - a healthy productive pasture is able to resist weed invasion. Another example is foot and mouth disease (FMD) which is hard to detect in sheep, often just causing a mild lameness. In a country such as the UK where up to 30% of sheep are lame at any one time, detecting FMD in sheep proved quite a challenge. If they'd been healthier to start with, detecting the lame ones would have been much easier. Apply an acceptable level of risk Use your knowledge of the prevalence of diseases, pests and weeds to inform buying decisions, or the security precautions you take with your boundary fencing. Ask questions of the vendor about the diseases likely to be present. Even better, get them declared in a declaration such as the Sheep Health Statement. Treat or control the risk of disease being introduced Both lice and drench resistant worms are quite prevalent, but the risk of introduction can be reduced by treating introduced sheep upon arrival. isolate introductions until tested free You can reduce the risk of weed introductions, say, with purchased fodder by feeding out in a confinement area or on a paddock that will be cropped the next season; or isolate purchased sheep until the next footrot spread period or to test for lice, until the next shearing. Monitor and test the disease status of your farm At this point you're making sure that a disease or pest hasn't gained entry. Monitor the health of your pastures and stock, looking for weeds, or watching for signs of illness. Other examples are performing drench resistance tests every couple of years, and checking any lame sheep for footrot. Your veterinarian can help you develop a biosecurity plan tailored for your farm, particularly in relation to protection from animal diseases. Robert Suter Senior Veterinary Offcer - Small Ruminants Animal Plant and Chemical Operations BIOSECURITy VICTORIA