Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) and its implications were at the forefront of the Livestock Saleyards Association of Victoria (LSAV) annual conference recently, for an event that was primarily supposed to concentrate on Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) of sheep.
There were two speakers on FMD at the LSAV conference, the first being the Dr William Sykes, who is the Parliamentary Secretary for Forestry and Fisheries.
Dr Sykes is a veterinarian and in that role went to England in 2002 to assist in the country's handling of its FMD outbreak.
Dr Sykes spoke briefly about the stock loss and the handling of livestock slaughter and dispersal, which was accompanied by a few photos.
However, he spoke mainly on the effect on humans, especially the monetary and physical implications.
While Dr Terry Thomas, Animal Health Australia, laid it on the line by saying "it is not a matter of if but when".
When asked what was considered to be the most dangerous way for FMD to come into Australia, Dr Thomas said people brining product into Australia illegally, or those singularly setting foot on our northern shores by boat.
He said people had already come on shore with animals on board but these were mostly cats and dogs and were more a threat for rabies.
However, Dr Thomas did say several times that it was still not if, but when.
He then went on to explain how this would affect the livestock industry.
Firstly, policy says there must be an immediate 72-hour stand down of all livestock movement.
This means trucks must stop where they are, livestock must not leave saleyards, nor abattoirs and trucks carrying livestock must not travel from where they are at the time.
The short-term ramifications of this scenario are huge.
Consider how big this country is and where a livestock truck could be at any point of time.
Also consider that for humane reasons, livestock must be unloaded and watered, and/or fed.
Also to be considered is the stoppage of meat supply to butchers or supermarkets.
A 72hr curfew on livestock transport will directly affect to supply to abattoirs and therefore sales outlets.
However, Dr Thomas suggested there was a positive in all of this.
After the initial curfew, Australia is a big country and any outbreak could be kept within a small area if the control program worked correctly.
This is where the other major topic of the conference merges, as an integral part of the success of any control of livestock movement would be the issue of livestock identification by electronic means.
Under such a scheme livestock being transported would be either scanned, or identifiable by National Vendor Declaration forms (NVDs).
Call it what you like but Dr Thomas was very convincing when discussing the not if but when scenario.
If nothing else comes out of this discussion, it should enhance the issue of RFIDs for sheep.
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