July 22, 2022
Vice president of Australia's Livestock SA advises farmers not to be alarmed of FMD threat
Farmers in Australia should remain alert, but not alarmed at foot-and-mouth disease being at the country's doorstep, said Livestock SA vice-president Allan Piggott.
"It is quite concerning that it is on our doorstep," Piggott said. "Australians have a strong association with Bali (Indonesia), especially this time of year, a lot of people come backwards and forwards, so it just raises that awareness and concern a bit that it is so close."
The discovery of FMD in Indonesia has caused worry for Australian livestock farmers. The most recent exposure to FMD in Australia was 150 years ago, in 1872, which was recorded as a minor, isolated outbreak.
"Producers should be very diligent, they should be vigilant, and if they think their livestock potentially have the disease, they should call the [Emergency Animal Disease Watch] hotline," Piggott said. "There are three things that people will notice most is, (animals) tend to salivate a lot, particularly cattle, we see a lot of drooling around the mouth.
"If you get a close look you'll see blisters around the gums and the tongue, and they also could be laying [down] as well.
"As it is foot-and-mouth disease, these blisters appear around the mouth and around the feet and young animals get knocked around really badly, they may not eat for a while and they may not be able to walk to food and water... from a welfare perspective it's terrible for the animal but it's also a big drain on producers as well.”
From a more local perspective, livestock producers would be required to increase and maintain biosecurity measures on farms, including the correct biosecurity signage and the introduction of disinfectants.
"Certainly, people would be clamping down on that reducing animal movement and that biosecurity to make sure it doesn't get spread around... it's a very contagious disease," Piggott said. This would also likely see the exclusion of visitors from the farm, decreasing the foot traffic and therefore limiting livestock's possible exposure to the disease.
Piggott added that the way local livestock producers are impacted by FMD can be categorised by the location and severity of the infection.
"The first level, if it came into Australia but it was isolated, it was in a very small area, obviously the people in that area will be impacted terribly, but it may not impact on us too much, if we can get those markets open again quickly," Piggott explained.
"If we are in the red zone, we're going to have to get rid of all our livestock, which would be absolutely devastating, we've got 80 years of stud breeding here [at Illoura Rams] so the genetics go back a long, long way, so it would be a real shame."
If FMD does make its way into Australia, farmers that do not fall into the red zone but are close enough that they could be impacted will have to follow intermediary measures, including locking animals away, testing them and quarantining them.
"We're in the game of selling rams for the prime lamb industry; three quarters of that is exported overseas, so if we lose those markets, it would really devastate us as an industry and not just me personally, and it's not just prime lamb as well, dairy products, wool, there's a whole heap of agricultural products that will be impacted as well," Piggott said.
- The Transcontinental Port Augusta