The national animal health framework
In Australia's national animal health framework, the federal and state governments and livestock industries work together to develop and administer rigorous, auditable systems that satisfy markets and protect human health.
The individual producer’s role within this framework is to ensure that they implement those systems in order to maintain and grow their markets.
The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) implements five systems to ensure WA’s livestock products meet market and food safety requirements:
These systems regulate:
- identification and traceability
- chemical use
- livestock feed
- livestock disease investigation and diagnostics, and
- animal welfare.
Identification and traceability – the foundation for market confidence
Australia’s identification and traceability systems are the foundation for demonstrating our livestock health status. If animals cannot be identified and traced from the property of origin to the processor, markets cannot be assured that product is free of disease or residues. With an average of 28 000 sheep and cattle movements per day across WA, effective systems to maintain complete traceability are vital to maintaining and growing our markets.
DPIRD provides a system for livestock owners to register and obtain a unique property identification code (PIC) for where they keep their stock. Livestock on these properties are then identified using the appropriate brand, tattoo or earmark. Additionally, National Livestock Identification System (NLIS) identification is compulsory for sheep, goats and pigs. These identifiers are used to maintain traceability whenever livestock are moved.
Currently, Australia’s sheep, goat and cattle traceability systems consist of:
- waybills (paper or electronic) – the National Vendor Declaration (NVD) waybill that travels with stock, declaring movement and health details
- electronic recording of each movement on the NLIS database.
Australia’s pig traceability system consists of a paper or electronic PigPass NVD and recording on the PigPass database.
For more information about traceability and identification systems, see Livestock ownership, identification and movement.
Chemical use – preventing resistance and protecting food safety
DPIRD regulates and audits chemical use in livestock to prevent antimicrobial resistance or contamination of product.
These regulations support industry food safety programs such as the Livestock Production Assurance (LPA) for red meat and the Australian Pork Industry Quality Assurance Program (APIQ) for pigs. Members use National Vendor Declaration waybills to declare the food safety of their livestock.
Livestock feed – protecting food safety and market access
DPIRD also regulates stockfeed manufacturing, formulation, labelling, and feeding in order to safeguard livestock and public health and to protect our market access.
The regulations prohibit certain hormones and antibiotics in livestock feed, as well as unregistered chemicals or contaminants at levels that could affect human health.
Incorrect feeding can cause diseases in livestock that could harm human health and devastate trade. For example, feeding meatmeal to cattle could cause mad cow disease, while feeding meat or non-Australian dairy products to pigs could lead to an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease, which would devastate the Australian livestock industry and cost an estimated $52 billion over 10 years.
For more information about correct livestock feed, see Stockfeed regulation and standards.
Livestock disease investigation and diagnostics – providing evidence of freedom from disease
WA’s livestock disease investigation and diagnostic systems operate to protect market access and human health in three ways:
- by looking for and undertaking laboratory testing for specific illnesses known as ‘reportable diseases’ that could affect trade or human health
- by trapping disease vectors, such as mosquitoes and midges, and testing livestock in targeted areas of WA to prove ‘area freedom’ from reportable diseases, and
- by investing in initiatives to detect diseases early to minimise their economic or human health impact on WA.
WA veterinarians actively look for signs of diseases that could affect human health, such as mad cow disease or avian influenza, or diseases that could devastate our international trade, such as foot-and-mouth or bluetongue disease. Whenever livestock show signs of illness that could be a reportable disease, vets submit samples for laboratory testing. The test results are used to demonstrate that WA is free from these diseases, allowing us to maintain and grow our markets.
The National Arbovirus Monitoring Program (NAMP) is an example of how proving area freedom increases market opportunities. Through NAMP, DPIRD works with WA producers to monitor for insects that carry bluetongue virus, as well as testing herds across the state. This allows parts of WA to claim area freedom for bluetongue virus and so trade into extra markets.
The Australian public and trading partners demand high animal welfare standards. Australia and Western Australia regulate comprehensive systems designed to provide for the welfare of animals.