Vets remain vigilant to aid farmers
While customs officials have been bolstering Australia’s border to prevent African swine fever entering the country, another threat is being constantly monitored much closer to home.
A Brunswick vet who has lived and worked in countries during foot and mouth disease outbreaks said if the disease made its way to the South West the beef and dairy industries would be crippled.
The warning comes just after the Federal Department of Agriculture and Australia’s Animal Health Laboratory released a new online guide to help identify exotic diseases in Australian livestock.
The guide is aimed as a field guide for veterinarians to identify and manage biosecurity threats in the region and is one of a range of measures in place to better manage animal biosecurity threats, such as testing of intercepted meat produce at airports.
Francis Waichigo from Brunswick Veterinary Service said vets were constantly on the lookout for signs of exotic diseases.
“If we find something unusual there is a strict government protocol we need to follow,” he said.
He was worried by how close African swine fever had come to Australia.
Dr Waichigo said although swine fever was not much of a threat in the Harvey shire area, foot and mouth disease was a very real threat for the region.
“It’s as real, if not more, than African swine fever,” Dr Waichigo said.
Born in Kenya and then spending part of his professional career in Saudi Arabia, Mr Waichigo has seen first-hand how hard it is to stop the spread of the disease.
He said if FMD were to reach the South West, it would devastate the beef and dairy industries.
“There would be a total shutdown,” he said. “It would be devastating for the entire industry.
He said animals could carry FMD the disease for up to 18 months, putting herds at risk.
“In a situation like Australia we would have to destroy all the animals in the region to make sure the disease didn’t spread.”
Federal Agriculture Minister Bridget McKenzie said the guide would help identify some of the most dangerous diseases.
“ASF and Foot and Mouth Disease could wipe out industries, jobs, impact on trade and the availability of the Australian produce we all enjoy,” Minister McKenzie said.
“We need to be as prepared as possible because the threat is real,” she said.
Forrest MHR Nola Marino said the guide would help prepare and inform local vets about exotic diseases affecting livestock.
“Our vets are a critical part of our strong biosecurity system,” Mrs Marino said.
“This guide is about protecting the health of our local livestock, the livelihoods of our community, and the Australian agricultural sector as a whole.
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