Protecting Victorian livestock
In May 2022, an outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) was reported in cattle in Indonesia and has since spread to Bali. An incursion of the virus would have severe consequences for Australia’s animal health and trade.
The emergence and rapid spread of FMD in Indonesia has changed the risk profile for passengers and goods arriving in Australia.
As a consequence, the VFF has taken a leading role in advocating on behalf of Victorian farmers to ensure improved preparedness and response.
If your animals show signs of FMD, you must report it immediately. Call the Emergency Animal Disease Watch Hotline on 1800 675 888, or your local veterinarian.
How to prepare
With FMD on our borders it is vital that you and your farm are prepared.
All livestock owners should have stringent biosecurity measures in place on their property, including accurate records of livestock movement. This means you should have a biosecurity management plan.
In addition, we recommend you undertake Animal Health Australia’s Emergency Animal Disease (EAD) training course to understand how EAD responses are managed in Australia.
Biosecurity Management Plan templates and information:
- Integrity Systems – Livestock Production Assurance (LPA) – biosecurity plan – recommended for livestock producers to ensure compliance with the LPA program.
- Dairy Australia – Biosecurity Plan Tool
- Australian Pork – Biosecurity management plan and resources
- Animal Health Australia – On-farm biosecurity plan template – is designed for all species, there is also an app version available for phones and tablets.
The following information resources have been prepared by state and Commonwealth authorities regarding FMD response and preparedness:
- Australian Government – Department of Agriculture – information about the Commonwealth Government’s response.
- Agriculture Victoria – Foot and Mouth Disease Information – information about the Victorian Government’s response and preparedness.
- Animal Health Australia – FMD Information Page – Information for livestock producers and veterinarians on preparedness.
- Farm Biosecurity – free farm biosecurity information and resources for farmers.
The VFF has received enquiries from farmers asking how they can access biosecurity warning signs to display on access points to their properties. At this point in time, the VFF does not have a program to supply signs to farm businesses, but we are in active discussions with government and industry on how a program can be established. At this time, the VFF recommends that farmers buy signs directly from Animal Health Australia.
Producers need to be aware however that due to recent changes to Victoria’s laws, you may need to update biosecurity signs in order to be able to prosecute trespassers on your farm.
Amendments to the Livestock Management Act 2010 mean that trespassers can be prosecuted for entering farms that have a biosecuirty management plan in place. In order to be protected by this law, farmers must ensure they display signs that are compliant with the regulations established under the Act. Those regulations are currently being finalised by Agriculture Victoria with input from the VFF. The VFF is advocating for practical regulations so that existing signs can be easilly updated, rather than requiring producers to go to the expense of replacing all their signs. We look forward to communicating the outcome of this advocacy once the regulations are finalised in late August / early September 2022.
VFF Foot and Mouth Disease Webinars
VFF has hosted two webinars in July and August 2022 with over 1,300 producers joining online to learn more about FMD preparedness and response from the following presenters:
- Emma Germano, VFF President
- Dr Chris Parker, Head of the National Animal Disease Taskforce, Commonwealth Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries
- Dr Megan Scott, Principal Officer – Emergency Animal Disease, Chief Veterinary Officer’s Unit, Agriculture Victoria.
- Tony Maher, NFF CEO
Frequently Asked Questions
The following questions were asked by producers at the webinar held on 14 July. The VFF would like to thank Agriculture Victoria for providing responses. Please click on the question below to read the response in the dropdown:
What will happen if there’s an outbreak within Victoria or another Australian jurisdiction?
If a detection of FMD occurs within Australia a national livestock standstill will be implemented to stop the movement of all FMD-susceptible species, as outlined in the Australian FMD response plan, AUSVETPLAN. Initially it is likely that a 72 hour (minimum)-livestock standstill will be implemented Australia-wide while the situation is investigated. This will be followed by additional movement controls under declared areas. Any properties known to be infected or contaminated with FMD will be placed under quarantine with strict movement and biosecurity controls implemented. The response will involve investigation of where the disease is occurring, controlling its spread and elimination.
Will Victoria close its borders?
It is likely that Victoria will initially close its borders if an outbreak of FMD occurs, as part of a national livestock standstill. The ongoing situation will depend on risk assessments involving the location and size of the disease outbreak. Victoria is working closely with industry and other states in regards to border closures.
What animal by-products will be subject to movement controls?
Movement of animal by-products will be subject to movement controls if they are in a high-risk area. Those considered to be from low-risk premises and not presenting a significant risk of FMD transmission will generally be allowed. Ausvetplan provides guidance as to movement controls for animal by-products and outlines the circumstances where movement permits may apply.
Animal by-products that may be subject to movement controls or restrictions include carcases and hides, meat products, semen and embryos, wool and other fibres, milk and dairy products.
Will the movement of fleece or wool be impacted?
Movement of wool may be subject to movement controls if it originates from a high-risk area. Wool considered to be from low-risk premises that not presenting a significant risk of FMD transmission will generally be allowed. Ausvetplan provides guidance as to movement controls for wool and outlines the circumstances where movement permits may apply.
Controls of wool movement may include appropriate disinfection of the outside of the bale and storage prior to transport.
How will the movement of farm staff and contractors be policed?
People can carry and spread FMD virus. Infected properties will be put under quarantine with strict movement conditions in place. Only essential workers will be permitted onto/off infected premises under strict biosecurity measures. These are legal requirements and are therefore enforceable by law.
Properties that are not under quarantine are advised to manage and record people movements as part of standard biosecurity practices.
Will these movement restrictions be communicated to stakeholders?
The Agriculture Victoria website will be the ‘source of truth’ for all advice on movement restrictions however AgVic will work closely with industry, government and other emergency response agencies to communicate important messages.
If there is an FMD outbreak, what movements controls will be in place for milk tankers?
If there is an FMD outbreak, what movements controls will be in place for milk tankers?
Ausvetplan acknowledges the importance of milk collections from dairy farms and has a specific table designed to address the movement of milk during an FMD outbreak. Movement controls are assessed on risk so some movements may require permits. Milk tankers will be expected to comply with cleaning protocols to minimise the risk of spreading FMD virus.
Who will impose secondary regulation on the movement of animal products e.g. milk?
The movement of animal products such as milk are addressed in Ausvetplan and in Victoria this will be regulated through a Control Order under the Livestock Disease Control Act.
Due to environmental regulations, milk cannot be dumped on farm. What happens with milk that is unable to be collected?
Agriculture Victoria is working closely with the dairy industry and EPA to consider a range of options for milk disposal including acidification of milk on-farm to eliminate the virus and off-site disposal options.
What does traceability look like for other impacted species e.g. horses, donkeys, mules, camelids, goats and deer?
In Victoria, goats are subject to similar electronic NLIS traceability requirements as sheep. Some goat breeds are exempt from tagging requirements, but their movement must be accompanied by a movement document and recorded in the NLIS database.
Currently there are no traceability requirements for deer or camelids in Victoria.
Horses, donkeys and mules are not susceptible to FMD.
Who decides what animals are destroyed?
An Australian FMD response plan (AUSVETPLAN) has been developed following consultation between Australian national, state and territory governments, relevant livestock industries and non-government agencies. This plan outlines the actions that would be taken to control an outbreak of FMD. It includes recommendations regarding which animals may need to be destroyed.
How are decisions made about stock slaughtered in the event of an outbreak?
In the event of a FMD outbreak, epidemiological studies, disease modelling, surveillance and tracing are used to predict how the disease is likely to spread. Every outbreak is different and varies according to many factors including the location and size of the outbreak, farms present in the area (species, density, production type etc), movements that occurred prior to disease detection, seasonal and weather conditions. All these factors are taken into consideration when deciding what control measures, including culling of livestock, are required.
Can FMD be spread by wild animals e.g. kangaroos, feral pigs, deer, dogs, migratory birds?
Wild animals are capable of carrying foot and mouth disease virus from one place to another, although they are not thought to play a significant role in its spread, with the exception of feral pigs which can become infected may potentially spread the disease.
Deer are susceptible, but overseas evidence to date suggests that wild and feral populations pose a low risk of transmitting infection to domestic livestock.
What happens if feral pigs are infected by FMD?
In the case of a FMD outbreak, a surveillance and control/cull program of feral pigs would be conducted as appropriate.
How long can FMD survive in the environment e.g. in soil, floodwater, in the air?
FMD virus can remain infective in the environment for several weeks and possibly longer in the presence of organic matter, such as soil, manure and dried animal secretions, or on chemically inert materials, such as straw, hair and leather. Survival general depends on temperature (56C for 30minutes has been documented as sufficient to kill most strains) and humidity (rapid inactivation of the virus below 60% humidity).
How long can the FMD virus survive on the surfaces of footwear?
FMD virus survival on the surfaces of footwear depends if the footwear is clean or dirty. FMD can survive for weeks if there is contaminated soil on the footwear. Survival time is less if the footwear is clean of dirt and other material.
What is the incubation period of the FMD virus, and when will we see clinical signs in our animals?
For the purposes of the WOAH Terrestrial Animal Health Code, the incubation period for FMD is 14 days.
When spread is occurring within a herd or flock, the typical incubation period for FMD is 2–6 days but may range from less than 24 hours up to 14 days (Kitching 2002; Kitching and Alexandersen 2002; Kitching and Hughes 2002).
What’s the difference between FMD and hand foot and mouth disease?
FMD disease and hand foot and mouth disease have similar names but are otherwise not connected. They are caused by different viruses and are not related to each other. FMD affects animals. Hand foot and mouth disease occurs in people, spreading mainly between children.
Is FMD zoonotic?
FMD is not generally considered zoonotic. On the rare occasion it may cause a temporary, mild disease with signs including fever, and blisters on the hands, feet or mouth. (This is not the same as hand, foot and mouth disease that occurs in people).
Will animals recover from FMD? Is there a treatment plan for infected animals?
Animals can recover from FMD, depending on the severity of their symptoms, however long-term production issues have been reported. Some animals can also become long-term ‘carriers’ of the virus. No specific treatment is available to infected animals. Severely affected animals should be euthanised promptly for welfare reasons.
Can FMD be transmitted through crops or animal feed?
Yes, FMD virus can be carried and spread on contaminated animal feed and crops. Pigs are most susceptible to becoming infected through ingestion of contaminated feed.
What are the clinical signs of FMD?
Clinical disease commences with fever followed by the appearance of vesicles (fluid-filled blisters) between the toes and on the heels, on mammary glands and particularly on the lips, tongue and palate. Over time, these may join to form large ulcers which usually heal over a period of ~10 days. In dairy cattle a drop in milk production commonly occurs.
Foot lesions cause lameness and mouth lesions can impair animals from normal eating and drinking.
Adults usually begin eating again after a few days, but young animals may weaken and die, or be left with foot deformities or permanent damage to the mammary glands.
Disease in sheep may be mild and difficult to detect unless their feet and mouths are closely examined.
What are the optimal on-farm fencing boundaries to reduce the spread of FMD?
Double fencing (eg a tree line) is a good way to reduce FMD disease spreading between farms by direct (nose to nose) contact between animals. Other biosecurity measures such as not driving vehicles on other properties will also help to reduce transmission.
However, FMD can also spread indirectly via aerosols in the air which can contribute to local spread.
What is the best disinfectant for farm gate foot baths and tyre sprays?
Refer to the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) for the latest information on relevant minor use permits for products used as disinfectants for treatment of equipment, fabric and surfaces in the event of the outbreak of FMD. APVMA Permit number 83649.
FMD virus is resistant to iodophores, quaternary ammonium compounds and phenol (OIE 2013).
What is some practical advice to control FMD on my property?
- Develop an on-farm biosecurity plan e.g. https://www.farmbiosecurity.com.au/
- Be able to recognise the clinical signs of FMD and where to seek advice – Emergency Animal Disease Watch Hotline 1800 675 888
- Maintain good records of livestock movements (e.g. NLIS), people and products (e.g. feed movements)
- Basic biosecurity – clean boots and workwear (have a dedicated set for your farm and your farm workers), restrict access to your animals and livestock handling areas
- Ask for a vendor declaration/health statement when purchasing stock
Are footbaths the silver bullet, or a tool in the disease response toolbox?
- Footbaths are only one ‘tool’ that can be used to minimise the risk of diseases coming onto a property. They can be very effective when used appropriately (correct chemical concentrations, refreshing contents regularly, etc.) but should be part of a broader biosecurity plan.
Where can I obtain a biosecurity sign for my farm gate?
Aluminium biosecurity farmgate signs are available from Animal Health Australia
Farm Biosecurity Gate Sign – aluminum medium – Animal Health Australia
What countries have FMD?
FMD is endemic in many parts of Africa, the Middle East and Asia; and, in parts of South America. The WOAH’s World Animal Health Information Database provides information on the FMD situation of member countries. https://wahis.woah.org/#/home
What can we do to increase awareness about FMD?
Keep up the conversation about the importance of early detection, reporting and good biosecurity. Everyone can play a role in preventing a disease outbreak and protecting our valuable agricultural industries. Be sure to seek your information from reliable sources.
What precautions should stockfeed manufacturers take?
Stockfeed manufacturers can support their clients by also implementing good biosecurity measures such as;
• Arrive on-farm with clean footwear
• Avoid handling livestock and where possible avoid livestock areas
• Keep good records of deliveries and pick-ups in the event tracing your movements is required
• In the event of an FMD outbreak stockfeed manufacturers will need to implement vehicle washing in some areas/properties.
How can breed societies help communicate to stakeholders?
Breed societies can play an important role for their stakeholders by sharing the key messages from Agriculture Victoria, DAFF and Animal Health Australia. This improves awareness and ensures the communications are consistent and reliable. Webpage: www.agriculture.vic.gov.au.
What is a good example of a biosecurity plan, and where can I find one?
- Animal Health Australia manages the Farm Biosecurity Program in partnership with Plant Health Australia. Further information and a on-farm biosecurity plan template can be found at the following link:
Better On-farm Biosecurity – Animal Health Australia
- MLA provides the following template:
Will livestock be covered under insurance in the event of an FMD outbreak?
Producers should check with their insurance company as to the details of their cover. Most insurance policies do not cover for exotic disease incursions such as foot-and-mouth disease but it advisable to check with your insurer.
How are my employees protected in the event of an FMD outbreak?
Employee wages are not considered in the national cost-sharing arrangements however farm employees may be contracted to assist with on-farm disease control activities such as decontamination.
How can I prepare my farm for FMD if it is road-facing?
- Ensure boundary fences are secure to stop any straying stock
- Double fencing/tree line for roadside fence will prevent any direct contact with stock that are on the road.
- Shut farm gates to prevent stock straying onto your property.
- If stock owned by other farmers are allowed onto the roadway, prevent your stock from accessing the same area.
- Implement your farm biosecurity plan.
What resources does Agriculture Victoria have to manage and control FMD?
Agriculture Victoria can draw upon a large pool of staff who have experience and training in the management of biosecurity incidents. Arrangements are also in place to draw upon expertise from other emergency response agencies and organisations to support an emergency response.
What is zoning? And how will it impact the animal industries?
In the case of a limited disease outbreak, a containment zone may be established around the area where the outbreak is occurring with the purpose of maintaining a disease-free status outside the containment zone. This would support ongoing trade for animal industries.
All zoning applications are prepared by the Australian government during an outbreak and recognition of zones still requires negotiation with individual trading partners.
What compensation framework is in place if we have to destroy livestock?
Details of the approach to the valuation of, and compensation for, livestock and property in disease responses can be found in the AUSVETPLAN operational manual Valuation and compensation.
The details and valuation will be recorded of any livestock that are destroyed. Local market value is the primary basis for valuation. Compensation is not payable for consequential losses.
How can truck washes assist in reducing the spread of disease?
Trucks have the potential to spread contaminated material between farms even if they are not carrying live animals. Dirt and manure on wheels, truck beds or surfaces may contain FMD virus and are a risk of spreading the disease. Truck washes will play an important role in reducing FMD spread, by ensuring that trucks are cleaned and disinfected between properties.
Will the movements of agricultural professionals between farms be controlled?
During an outbreak the recommendation is to minimise all movements onto a property, including people. However there will be circumstances that require the movement of agricultural (or other) professionals, and it is recommended they;
• Arrive on-farm with clean footwear and clothing
• Avoid handling livestock (or minimise handling) and where possible avoid livestock areas
• Keep good records of property visits in the event tracing movements is required
• In the event of an FMD outbreak visitors should leave vehicles off-farm (if practical) or implement vehicle washing when leaving the property.
What can we do to ensure that our vehicles are clean?
Avoid contaminating your own vehicles –do not drive them onto other properties or land that has contained livestock. However, if you have driven onto another property make sure clean your vehicle thoroughly by removing all dirt and contaminants before returning to your farm-this could be done at a car or truck wash facility. In the case of a disease outbreak, use of an effective disinfectant is recommended- ensuring an adequate contact time for the disinfectant before rinsing it off.
Will riverside camping be suspended to reduce the spread of FMD?
The risk of riverside camping in Victoria is currently being assessed by DELWP. The VFF is maintaining calls for a suspension.
Mental health support
We know this can be a difficult time for farmers and those working with livestock. If you or someone you know needs support, the following resources are available:
- TIACS – Free and confidential support and counselling for rural, truckies, tradies and blue collar workers – message or call Mon to Fri 8 am – 10 pm – 0488 846 988
- Are you bogged mate?
- National Centre for Farmer Health – Access a psychologist online
- Farm Hub – Mental Health Resources
- Beyond Blue – 1300 22 4636
- MensLine Australia – 1300 78 99 78