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Sheepmeat Council : Sheepmeat 2013
18 SHEEPMEAT COUNCIL OF AUSTRALIA ANNUAL MUSTER 2013 Animal Health Australia – Tackling productivity and biosecurity challenges In common with most agricultural sectors, sheep producers are facing a wide range of challenges in order to remain viable. Foremost among these challenges are the need to maximise productivity by reducing the impact of disease and other conditions, protect on-farm biosecurity and deal with the sustained pressures from animal welfare activists. Over the past 17 years, Animal Health Australia (AHA) has provided a useful business framework that enables the livestock industries and all governments to contribute to various partnership arrangements. As one of our major industry members, SCA has played a prominent role throughout the evolution of AHA. That role has meant that the sheep industries have been able to leverage their financial investment with contributions from the Commonwealth and state/territory governments, together with other industries, across a range of activities related to market access, on-farm biosecurity, animal welfare and emergency disease preparedness. In developing animal health, biosecurity and welfare programs, AHA has attempted to adopt a national approach, while also recognising any regional needs and priorities. Rather than each jurisdiction establishing different often-inconsistent programs, our national approach generally has offered significant efficiencies and savings. However, apart from trade-related matters and border protection, responsibility for most health, biosecurity and welfare issues rests with states and territories. In this context, the ongoing cutbacks in state primary industry agencies and loss of key With the continued financial pressures being experienced by producers, industry organisations and government agencies, the need to work together to tackle the big issues is more important than ever. experienced personnel are a cause for some concern. In light of these changing government priorities, SCA is to be congratulated on its strong support for the new Livestock Biosecurity Network (LBN), a small team of biosecurity field officers to be located in each jurisdiction. AHA will be actively providing the LBN with every assistance, by way of on-going training, technical advice and development of appropriate extension material. Reducing the financial impact of endemic diseases continues to be a major focus, particularly in light of a diminished government ability to provide 'traditional' regulatory and extension services. In several regions, Ovine Johne's Disease (OJD) continues to pose difficult and sensitive problems for producers, as an economically- significant endemic disease. During the past year, SCA and WoolProducers Australia have shown commendable leadership and initiative in taking responsibility for the national management of this formidable, complex disease. The effective management of OJD relies on the availability of authoritative, credible and impartial information regarding the status of flocks and animals being offered for sale. It demonstrates the importance of using information sources such as abattoirs, in the most cost-effective manner. Again, SCA and AHA have been working closely with meat processors to develop practical tools and systems to capture this information and provide that helpful feedback to producers. In order to underpin access to international markets and also recognise changing community attitudes to animal welfare, AHA has been working with our industry and government members and other stakeholders to develop Australian welfare standards and guidelines for sheep. This has been a prolonged and convoluted process, but it is anticipated that the draft standards should be endorsed by Australian, state and territory ministers by December 2013. It is an inevitable reality that the attention of the media and well-resourced welfare activist groups will continue to be directed towards the livestock industries. Australia's access to overseas markets is heavily dependent on our favourable animal disease status. Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) remains by far the highest risk and AHA continues to devote significant resources to FMD emergency response planning, including maintenance of the FMD vaccine bank in the UK and coordination of industry-funded research aimed at improving the effective use of vaccine, in the event of an outbreak. The future viability of Australia's sheep industries will be significantly dependent on the ability of industry organisations and relevant government agencies to forge stronger cooperative relationships to address the big challenges ahead. I am confident that in the future, AHA and our stakeholders can continue to play a constructive role in addressing those challenges -- working together in productive partnerships. For further information www.animalhealthaustralia.com.au