Biosecurity plans for small landholders

Page last updated: Friday, 25 May 2018 - 5:09pm

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Biosecurity on property


Observe your animals for illness or changes in behaviour. Early detection of diseased animals is very important so that you can act to minimise animal suffering, disease spread and financial loss.

In sick animals, behavioural changes, including reduced appetite, often occur before the animal’s appearance changes.

Isolate and treat any that are sick

Consult a veterinarian if you observe unusual signs. If animals die, once the cause is known, dispose of them correctly to prevent disease spread.

Maintain fences

Well-maintained, stock-proof fences, especially around the boundary, will help to keep out new diseases carried by stray or wild animals.

Manage visitors

Visitors, especially those who visit many farms, can bring infectious diseases onto your property on muddy boots or dirty overalls, equipment or vehicles. Ask all visitors to respect your biosecurity and arrive clean or clean their footwear once arriving on your property. Alternatively, confine visitors to one area and minimise their contact with your animals.

Overseas visitors could carry some infectious diseases on their clothes or shoes or in food they have brought with them. It is essential to ensure they have clean clothes and shoes if they are going near your animals. Do not allow them to bring food from overseas to feed your animals. This is how a disastrous disease like foot-and-mouth disease could enter Australia.

Feed supplies

Buy animal feed from a reliable supplier. Pellets and rations made for pigs and poultry may be dangerous to horses and contain ingredients that are illegal for sheep, goats, cows and other ruminants. Only give stockfeed to the animals for which it is intended.

Wild animals

Wild animals can introduce disease to your animals.

New diseases are occurring around the world and many of these derive from wild animals such as bats and birds. It is good biosecurity planning to ensure your animals do not share food or water with wild animals.

Before animals leave the property

Identification and movement

When animals or their products leave your property, your plan will specify that they must be correctly identified and accompanied by whatever documentation is appropriate, such as a waybill, vendor declaration or PigPass.

More information about identification and movement can be found on the website of the Department of Agriculture and Food, Western Australia (DAFWA).

Selling livestock

If you are selling animals through a market or saleyard, or direct to an abattoir or export yard, ensure the animals are eligible for the market for which they are destined.

They will need to be free of infectious disease and chemical residues and accompanied by a National Vendor Declaration waybill.

Showing livestock

Animals going off the property to attend a show, display or event will also need to be identified, healthy and free from any diseases and accompanied by a waybill. Most events have some biosecurity protocols you will need to follow.

Check requirements before the event to ensure you can comply.

Diseases to consider in a biosecurity plan

Endemic diseases

Endemic diseases do not necessarily affect large numbers of animals or occur frequently. Examples of endemic livestock diseases in Western Australia include mucosal disease, scabby mouth and erysipelas. Some of these can be controlled by treatment or vaccination programs.

Exotic diseases

Some of the better known exotic diseases include foot-and-mouth disease, avian influenza, rabies, bovine brucellosis and bovine tuberculosis and swine fever.

To minimise the chance of an exotic disease occurring here, Australia has stringent requirements for the importation of animals, reproductive material (such as semen, embryos and eggs) and material of animal origin.

New and emerging diseases

In the past, diseases of livestock were classified as either endemic or exotic. Now there is a third category of disease: the new and emerging diseases. The infectious agents may already be present in Australia, but not previously known to cause any illness or deaths.

These may be organisms that exist without causing harm in the normal host – perhaps a native species – but when transmitted to another species, including farm animals, disease may occur. An example of such a disease is Hendra virus.

Investigate disease outbreaks

The Significant Disease Investigation (SDI) Program, through DAFWA and Animal Health Australia, provides subsidised veterinary investigations for any livestock disease with high stock losses or which has similar disease signs to an exotic or notifiable disease. Laboratory testing will often be free of charge.

Search on ‘SDI’ at for more information on this program. If you see unusual disease signs in your stock, call your vet, a veterinary officer at DAFWA or the Emergency Animal Disease hotline on 1800 675 888. More information can be found on the DAFWA or the Farm Biosecurity website.

The Farm Biosecurity website has a range of information and farm biosecurity manuals for livestock producers.

Biosecurity on your property is essential in helping stop the spread of weeds, pests and diseases. Many small producers are unaware of the importance of biosecurity and the need for a dedicated biosecurity plan.

When managing a property make sure you develop a plan to assess stock arriving on your property, managing those that might already be present and reduce the risk of spreading pests and diseases.