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Cross-sector Operational Biosecurity Risk Assessment

Top biosecurity concerns shared by sheep and cattle producers in 2021 were wild animals, new or introduced livestock, visitors, vehicles, and environmental spread and more than 60% of producers do not have written biosecurity plans.

Project start date: 29 July 2021
Project status: Completed
Livestock species: Grain-fed Cattle, Grass-fed Cattle, Sheep, Goat, Lamb
Relevant regions: International


Biosecurity management is a critical part of protecting the Australian red meat industry from overseas threats such as FMD, making intensive and extensive farms resilient to endemic and exotic diseases, and ensuring market access to overseas markets.
The red meat industry collects significant data via governmental and non-governmental organisations, industry supply chains, and publicly available information that could inform biosecurity. However, data ownership, storage, and sharing rights/controls are not well understood.
This project investigated data stored at critical points throughout the supply chain and by government and peak bodies such as MLA to determine how the industry could enhance biosecurity.
ExoFlare found data gaps that may impact the ability to model the import and spread of endemic and exotic diseases. These gaps include access to government data, local information not shared, lack of real-time and accurate data for animal movements. While production data has been widely digitised and shared between supply chain members to improve production, biosecurity information is frequently collected on paper, not well structured, kept primarily for audit purposes, and not operationalised.
The industry should immediately address these gaps by collecting and enhancing missing data and strengthening relationships with custodians of existing data.


• Understand producer biosecurity concerns and data practices
• Identify biosecurity-relevant information held across the industry and supply chain, in addition to data sources in government, industry and international organisations
• Determine the potential for using this data to improve the biosecurity of the red meat industry, identifying new insights possible from bringing together multiple data sources
• Identify data gaps, opportunities and incentives for additional data collection

Key findings

• Livestock producers are underprepared for biosecurity, with only 25% having a formal biosecurity plan and training on the processes.
• Top biosecurity concerns shared by sheep and cattle producers were feral and wild animals, new or introduced livestock, visitors, vehicles, and environmental spread. More than 60% of both cattle and sheep producers do not have written biosecurity plans for the threat vectors of greatest concern.
• Supply chain members, industry organisations, and government gather considerable data that could inform and improve biosecurity. However, this information is fragmented and siloed across the different organisations and not effectively shared.
• Data gaps impact the ability to model the import of exotic and spread of endemic diseases. These gaps include data sharing between data holders, feral animal data consolidation, real-time and accurate data for animal movements, and biosecurity-related people and producer data.
• Most biosecurity information collected in the supply chain is not digitised and not analysed for insights. Comprehensive electronic data capture and sharing should replace existing paper-based workflows. Livestock owners find the current traceability system is hard to understand and the required transfers in the NLIS system difficult to perform.

Benefits to industry

• Increased resilience to exotic animal disease outbreaks through targeted surveillance, advanced early warning, and data-driven response planning
• Reduced production costs from endemic diseases
• Reduced compliance costs for quality assurance
• Increased confidence of access to overseas and premium markets.

MLA action

ExoFlare has received a $300,000 grant from the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment to develop a real-time data driven approach to assessing biosecurity risks in the red meat and pork sectors. Collaborating with industry leaders Meat & Livestock Australia, Australian Pork Limited and SunPork Group, ExoFlare will develop a real-time, data-driven approach to assessing networked biosecurity risk.
Initially applied to Australia’s economically valuable pork and red meat industries, the project will enable biosecurity data from across supply chains, from producers and feed suppliers to feedlots and processors, to be shared and analysed in new ways to improve our ability to manage existing risks and detect emerging risks sooner.
This cross-industry approach will enable us to respond rapidly when biosecurity incidents occur, minimising the financial and reputational impact that outbreaks have on Australian agriculture and our exports.

Over the next three years, the Cross-sector Operational Biosecurity Risk Assessment (COBRA) project will also explore new ways to enable and drive behavioural change within and across industries, to enhance our effectiveness in identifying future risks or incidents and improve our ability to trace agricultural commodities as they move through complex supply chains.

MLA is contributing funding to this project.

Future research

•Bring together biosecurity information to present key insights to livestock owners relating to the health, welfare, and biosecurity of their livestock. This would improve trust between supply chain members by providing a service where the animal health history is digitally accessible to purchasers of livestock.
•Provide producers with real-time on-the-ground risks to their property posed by feral animals using an up-to-date system of comprehensive national distribution maps.
•Implement a system to give producers real-time exposure risk assessments of vehicles coming onto their property as well as assessment of animal welfare and stress during the transport.
•Develop a visitor risk assessment system for intensive and extensive farms that provides livestock owners with an easy way to book visitors and give a reporting system to enable them to comply with audit requirements.

More information

Contact email:
Primary researcher: ExoFlare Pty Ltd


More information

Project manager: Verity Suttor
Contact email:
Primary researcher: ExoFlare Pty Ltd