New funds to bolster Australia’s livestock biosecurity systems

20 July 2016

Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) has welcomed a $5.8 million Australian Government grant to assist in bolstering biosecurity systems for Australia’s livestock industries.

The project, managed by MLA and to be led by CSIRO, will focus on improving surveillance, preparedness and return to trade for emergency animal disease incursions using foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) as a model.

The project will provide:

  • Assurance that Australia has suitable vaccines against the highest risk FMD viruses and diagnostic tests suitable for pre and post outbreak testing;
  • A new national farm Emergency Animal Disease (EAD) surveillance system built on diverse producer values and needs;
  • A real-time outbreak ready decision support system built by integrating existing spatial epidemiological models with economic impact modules to allow response scenarios to be tested in real time; and
  • Meteorological and sequencing based tools that directly assist mapping outbreak spread by providing animal biosecurity intelligence that can reduce the long term impact and minimise the time to proof-of-freedom.

MLA Managing Director Richard Norton said it was important to Australia’s red meat industry that the best systems are in place to prevent, and if necessary respond quickly, to any infectious disease outbreaks.

“While Australia has stringent animal health biosecurity systems, there is a need for investment to remain vigilant and to continually improve our systems,” Mr Norton said.  

“For example, while Australia has been FMD-free since 1872, a large outbreak of this highly infectious disease has the potential to immediately devastate Australia’s livestock industries.

“This project is about bolstering our preparedness, reducing the impact of any outbreak and fast tracking the return to trade for the red meat industry.”

Mr Norton said the work undertaken by Australia around biosecurity, in particular FMD preparedness through the Foot-and-Mouth Disease Risk Management Program (FMD RMP), had gained international recognition.

“We are breaking new ground in vaccine testing and understanding how the virus evolves,” Mr Norton said.

“The FMD RMP focuses on laboratory based research aspects of disease knowledge and anticipation, including laboratory vaccine response.  

“In order to ensure this knowledge can be utilised in real time, this project will look at developing data management tools that are fast and integrated with other systems, such as meteorological data and transport.

“More broadly, the project will also further encourage an open and collaborative approach to infectious disease management amongst red meat producers.

“Involving producers in surveillance and biosecurity at enterprise level will have the added benefit of further raising awareness about animal health and disease in general.”

The project is co-funded through the Australian Government’s Rural Research and Development for Profit program, MLA’s Donor Company and Animal Health Australia (AHA). 

To find out more about the Federal Government’s Rural R&D for Profit program, visit http://www.agriculture.gov.au/ag-farm-food/innovation/rural-research-development-for-profit 

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