Fit to trade bulletin

The Fit to trade bulletin promotes government and industry partnership across the biosecurity systems that protect and enable Western Australia's livestock businesses to trade into domestic and international markets.

Biosecurity hub a drawcard at Woolorama

Producers, government and industry members at the biosecurity hub at Woolorama
George Basha, Integrity Systems Company (left) and DPIRD field veterinary officer Dr Anna Erickson (third left) discussed biosecurity issues with producers at the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development biosecurity hub at Woolorama.

The biosecurity hub within the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development display at Wagin Woolorama proved a drawcard this year, with Department and industry representatives from Livestock Production Assurance (LPA) and Livestock Biosecurity Network (LBN) staffing a joint display.

Livestock Biosecurity director Peter Gray said the biosecurity hub reflected the ongoing close collaboration between national and state industry bodies and WA government in providing the integrity systems and information needed for WA producers to maintain and maximise their markets.

“A key issue for visitors to the hub this year was to find out more about the changes to the LPA accreditation, particularly the inclusion of biosecurity plans and animal welfare modules, with Customer Services Manager for Integrity Systems Company, George Basha, on-hand to answer those queries,” Dr Gray said.

Meat and Livestock Australia’s Dr David Beatty (Program Manager – Value Chain RD&A) was also available to talk to producers about the importance of Australia’s integrity systems to our overseas customers.

“Other questions were around farm biosecurity and biosecurity plans with LBN representative Frances Gartrell assisting producers with biosecurity plan templates and information.

“More than 80 producers completed a short biosecurity quiz while at the hub and received a free biosecurity sign to put on their entrance gate to alert visitors to the importance of on-farm biosecurity measures to protect their property.

“The Department will have free farm biosecurity signs available (while stocks last) for livestock producers who complete the biosecurity quiz at field days where Livestock Biosecurity is present, including this year’s Balingup, Gidgegannup and Dowerin field days.

“Also popular at the biosecurity hub was the brands display, where more than 75 producers checked their brand details were correct and made sure they were currently registered, as well as receiving a copy of a handy common property identification code (PIC) card for abattoirs and saleyards.

“Over the two days Department field vets Dr Anna Erickson and Dr Kristine Rayner received more than 80 enquiries about the lamb deaths surveillance program, ovine brucellosis accreditation and other livestock health issues.

“Producers and other livestock industries members noted the convenience of being able to have all of their biosecurity questions answered at the one venue,” Dr Gray said.

“The Department values attendance at field days for the opportunity to get face-to-face feedback on biosecurity issues. So if you have a biosecurity question, look for the Department display at your next local field day – or contact your local DPIRD vet or biosecurity officer today.”

For more information about LPA accreditation, see the LPA website or contact the LPA Helpdesk on 1800 683 111. WA producers can also contact LBN representative Frances Gartrell on or 0497 700 113 with LPA and farm biosecurity queries.

For all the information you need about farm biosecurity (including ordering farm biosecurity signs or downloading the PDF to create your own farm biosecurity sign), see the farm biosecurity website.

DPIRD adopts new disease model to fight FMD

Workshop attendees
The Australian Animal Disease Spread workshop was led by Dr Richard Bradhurst (centre), Centre of Excellence for Biosecurity Risk Analysis, and attended by (from left) Dr Katie Webb, DPIRD, Dr Alison Hillman and Dr Edwina Leslie, AUSVET, and Dr Jo Dups, DPIRD.

The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) has expanded its capabilities in foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) risk management using a new disease modelling program.

FMD is a highly contagious, viral disease exotic to Australia. Western Australia has several strategies in place to mitigate the risk of FMD introduction and respond effectively should an outbreak occur. These strategies are constantly evolving to reflect advancing knowledge in the field and a variety of decision support tools are employed to guide this process.

One such tool is disease modelling, which allows analysis of hypothetical outbreak scenarios. The results of these simulations guide decision making by providing informative insights, such as how the disease may spread under varying conditions of entry, or what activities would be most effective in controlling spread.

The Australian Animal Disease Spread model (AADIS) is a new national-scale model of livestock disease spread developed by the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources in partnership with the University of New England. It uses a novel combination of two modelling approaches to simulate disease spread both within and between herds via five possible transmission pathways.

The model also allows many configurable parameters, including the source of incursion (location and/or herd type), outbreak start date, time to detection, and a range of control or management activities. The ability to change these factors provides great scope for exploring diverse outbreak scenarios and testing control strategies.

DPIRD veterinary epidemiologist Dr Johanna Dups and veterinary officer Dr Katie Webb attended a three-day AADIS training workshop in October last year.

“AADIS is a powerful new tool to explore potential outbreak scenarios and control options. The workshop familiarised us with the program and highlighted the numerous ways it can be used to inform FMD risk mitigation and response strategies,” Dr Dups said.

Dr Dups also noted that a key feature of AADIS was its flexibility.

“During the workshop we were encouraged to identify areas that could be modified to better reflect the situation in Western Australia.

“We also learned that AADIS can be adapted to model diseases other than FMD. For instance, work is currently underway to modify AADIS for bluetongue virus disease modelling,” Dr Dups said.

Australia’s disease-free status provides access to many valuable export markets that would otherwise not be available, with a potential outbreak of FMD having serious economic consequences.

The Australian Bureau of Agriculture and Resource Economics and Science has reported that a large, multi-state outbreak of FMD in Australia would cost an estimated $52 billion over 10 years. Early detection is important to mitigate the impact of a potential FMD incursion. Producers and private veterinarians are encouraged to report signs of FMD such as lameness, drooling and blisters in the mouth and on the feet, tongue, snout and teats of cloven-hoofed animals to the Emergency Animal Disease hotline on 1800 675 888.

Dr Dups and Dr Webb will attend a second AADIS training workshop in April with a focus on simulating outbreak scenarios relevant to WA. Information from these modelling runs will be used in a project to analyse return on investment for surveillance activities in WA.

Visit our webpage for information on how to recognise the signs of foot-and-mouth disease.

Abattoir surveillance helps contain spread of virulent footrot

Sheep in saleyards
Check lame sheep by examining the foot for the cause.

Surveillance at regional abattoirs across the state is continuing while the season remains conducive to footrot lesions being detected. 

Eight new cases of virulent footrot have been detected as a result of abattoir inspections to date this season (Oct 2017 to Feb 2018). A further group of six were detected as a result of tracing from these abattoir detections.

Abattoir detection of virulent footrot enables containment of the disease and prevents further spread.

Footrot is caused by the bacterium Dichelobacter nodosus, with the virulent, more serious form of the organism regulated under the Biosecurity and Agriculture Management Act 2007

Virulent footrot causes lameness and productivity loss in sheep, depending on the severity of the disease.

Once virulent footrot is identified via a positive laboratory result, the sheep on the property are placed under quarantine to stop spread to other farms. Quarantined stock can only be moved to abattoir or export depots under permit.

Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) officers then work with the property owner to develop a plan that aims to eradicate or control the disease in their flock through management procedures in order to be released from quarantine. Immediate neighbours are also notified with advice on how to best protect their flocks. 

DPIRD officers continue to work to contain spread by examining all traces to and from an affected property in the previous 12 months.

Spread of virulent footrot occurs when property owners are not aware that their sheep have the disease and continue open selling. Sheep owners are required to report lameness in sheep where virulent footrot is suspected.

Producers are urged to be vigilant in checking prospective purchases for signs of lameness and to practice good biosecurity by holding introduced sheep in a separate paddock to the main flock until they are verified as disease-free.

DPIRD officers will continue to undertake abattoir surveillance for virulent footrot until early April.

The Footrot Control Program is funded by the Western Australian sheep and goat industry through the the Sheep and Goat Industry Funding Scheme, with daily operational activities managed by DPIRD biosecurity officers.

For more information on footrot, contact your local DPIRD biosecurity officer or see our footrot webpage.

Training supports WA’s future vets and livestock industries

DPIRD staff and Murdoch University vet students and staff in DPIRD laboratory
DPIRD veterinary pathologist Shane Besier (left), veterinary officer Emily Glass (third from left) and virologist Cameron Loomes (third from right) provided Murdoch University vet students and Murdoch University pathology registrar Cynthia Robveille (second from left) with an overview of DPIRD's laboratory services and the role of animal health surveillance and diagnostics.

Final-year veterinary students and Western Australia’s biosecurity status are benefitting from a joint training and engagement initiative coordinated by the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) and the College of Veterinary Medicine, Murdoch University.

DPIRD veterinary pathologist Shane Besier said it was vital that both companion animal and livestock vets understood the important role they would play in protecting Australia’s animal health and where they could access biosecurity expertise when needed.

“The Department regularly works with the School of Veterinary and Life Sciences at Murdoch University to assist with biosecurity and veterinary pathology information for students,” Dr Besier said.

“We recognised, however, that final-year vet students would benefit from a more holistic understanding of how the Department supports animal health with biosecurity and diagnostic expertise.

“While many of these students will not work with livestock every day, companion animal vets may see new and emerging diseases in wildlife or diseases in companion animals that can also affect livestock.

“As part of the training, students are introduced to the roles of Department vets, especially the support our veterinary pathologists can provide when newly graduated vets are confronted with an unfamiliar animal disease situation.

“Following a tour of the Department’s laboratory, the students participate in a large animal necropsy at Murdoch University under the supervision of Murdoch University Pathology Registrar Cynthia Robveille.”

Dr Besier said that ensuring the students were aware of the most effective sampling techniques for livestock or companion animals had four major benefits.

“First, they contribute to a rapid, accurate diagnosis,” he said.

“They also protect the vet, clients and consumers from zoonoses – diseases of animals that people can catch.

“Sound veterinary techniques also benefit individual producers by improving on-farm biosecurity and reducing disease spread between animals and between farms.

“And finally, the students learn how data from veterinary investigations support Western Australia and Australia’s excellent animal health status and protect our livestock industries’ access to domestic and export markets.”

Dr Besier said the student rotations would occur twice monthly during 2018.

“Initial feedback from the students has been very positive and we hope that exposure to the training will encourage the students to consider career paths that support WA’s livestock industries,” he said.

For more information about how government and private vets, producers and industry work together to gather surveillance data that supports our animal health status and ongoing access to markets, see the video Animal Health Surveillance in WA.

Emergency animal diseases focus of training

Participants in early animal disease detection workshop at Muchea Livestock Centre
Muchea Livestock Centre stock handlers and operational managers participated in four workshops on impact, detection and reporting of emergency animal diseases presented by the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development.

The clinical signs and impact of some of Western Australia’s important exotic disease threats were the focus of four workshops presented to WA industry by the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD).

Workshops coordinator, DPIRD field veterinary officer Rod Thompson, said that the workshops were well attended by industry, including 72 saleyard workers, 117 stock and merchandise agents, 70 livestock transporters, as well as 110 veterinary and agricultural science students.

“The diseases covered included foot-and-mouth disease, transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (mad cow disease) and screw-worm fly,” Dr Thompson said.

“Early detection of an incursion of any exotic disease would dramatically reduce the impact and increase the likelihood of eradication, protecting Western Australia’s valuable livestock export industries.

“It remains critical that people working in the livestock industry recognise and report signs of disease to a veterinarian.”

All sectors of industry have a responsibility to report unusual signs of disease by calling their local vet, DPIRD vet or the Emergency Animal Disease Hotline on 1800 675 888.

For more information, contact Rod Thompson, veterinary officer Northam on +61 (0)8 9690 2156 or your local DPIRD field veterinary officer.

The workshops were funded by Royalties for Regions.

Antimicrobial resistance study underway in WA cattle

Staff involved in antimicrobial study on WA cattle
DPIRD technical officer Mengqi Chen (left), Curtin University student Shannon O’Donnell, DPIRD veterinary officer Faheem Noor, DPIRD senior microbiologist Nicky Buller and DPIRD research officer Sam Hair.

The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) is mid-way through a surveillance study to gather data on the level of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in WA cattle. AMR occurs when bacteria, viruses, fungi or parasites stop antimicrobials such as antibiotics from working.

Department senior microbiologist Dr Nicky Buller is leading the study, which involves culturing bacteria present in faecal samples and then determining if they are resistant to a broad range of antibiotics used in human and animal medicine.

“Australia has one of the world's lowest levels of antibiotic use in agriculture, which is a result of our extensive farming systems, excellent animal health status, and strong regulatory systems which control antibiotic use,” Dr Buller said.

Although use of antibiotics is considered conservative in Australian food-producing animals, very little data has been collected to establish the prevalence of AMR, and there is no ongoing surveillance for AMR. The few studies that have been done indicate very low levels of AMR.

“If we can undertake research to demonstrate very low levels of AMR in our livestock then there are potential market opportunities for Australia to take advantage of.

“With growing consumer awareness of food, where it comes from and chemicals used in its production, Australia could utilise its low AMR status to build on its excellent reputation as a producer of safe, premium food that is recognised globally and which enables access to high-value markets,” Dr Buller said.

A number of the Department’s laboratory staff are involved in the study, with Curtin University students assisting during their seven-week work placement as part of their degree in Applied Science in Laboratory Medicine. 

The study will be completed later this year and the results published to support the WA cattle industry.

See our AMR webpage for more information.

New video highlights systems that keep WA’s livestock fit to trade

Fit to trade image
Keeping Western Australia's livestock fit to trade is the subject of a new video.

A new video produced by the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) provides a brief overview of how governments, the livestock industries and producers work together to keep our livestock ‘fit to trade’.

DPIRD Livestock Biosecurity director Peter Gray said that the video would promote a greater understanding of the value of the systems that protect our food safety and maximise our ability to trade.

“Western Australia had a well-deserved reputation for producing healthy livestock that are free of diseases and residues that could harm human health or damage our markets,” Dr Gray said.

“This reputation is built on systems that form part of Australia’s national animal health framework and which demonstrate to a scientific standard that our livestock are fit to trade.

“As WA exports about 80% of its livestock and livestock product annually, it is vital that producers are aware of the importance of supporting these systems to their fullest extent.

“The fit to trade video is part of the Department’s work to raise awareness of these systems.”

For more information, see the Fit to trade video or webpage.

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