SHEEP HEALTH PROJECT GOES FROM STRENGTH TO STRENGTH

The Sheep Health Project (SHP) has had another successful year in 2017, with a number of key activities completed to help sheep producers improve their on-farm biosecurity practices and the health of their sheep flock.

Funded by WoolProducers Australia (WPA) and Sheep Producers Australia (SPA), the SHP had a number of highlights this year, which include the launch of the new Sheep Health Declaration (SHD), significant levels of inspection in the National Sheep Health Monitoring Project (NSHMP) and the success of a number of communications activities.

The creation of the SHD is a particularly important achievement, said Dr Rob Barwell, Animal Health Australia’s (AHA) Acting Executive Manager of Biosecurity and Product Integrity Services.

“The SHD replaced the National Sheep Health Statement and is the most important disease risk management tool livestock buyers have available to them. It enables producers to assess the risk of diseases such as virulent footrot, ovine brucellosis, Johne’s disease and other biosecurity risks such as noxious and declared weeds when buying, selling or agisting stock,” said Dr Barwell.

The SHD is available on the Farm Biosecurity website to print out or download as a fillable PDF. It can also be completed online when submitting an electronic National Vendor Declaration on the Livestock Production Assurance portal.

More efficient data collection and an increase in the number of sheep inspected as part of the NSHMP were also key achievements for the SHP.

“The NSHMP monitors sheep in abattoirs for a number of diseases and conditions and provides feedback to producers, which they can use to manage the health of their sheep flock. I’m pleased to report that from January to October this year, around four and a quarter million sheep were inspected, an increase from the same period last year.”

“This means that more producers are being supplied with data about their sheep that can help them avoid future losses at the abattoir and boost their profits. The information is now available in Livestock Data Link, which is managed by the Integrity Systems Company,” said Dr Barwell.

Another key focus of the SHP in 2017 was promoting industry management of sheep health and biosecurity, in a way that sustains efficient production and ongoing market access.

“AHA, in conjunction with WPA and SPA, worked hard this year to get the message out that with good on-farm biosecurity and careful management of sheep health conditions, producers can improve profits at the farm gate,” said Dr Barwell.

“We circulated biosecurity information through newsletter articles, a social media campaign and animated videos.

“The video, in particular, was a great way to communicate with producers about sheep health and biosecurity. It’s the first time we’ve used this format and it was very successful, with the video reaching almost 5000 people through Facebook alone.

“Social media has also been useful to raise awareness about ovine brucellosis and ways to manage the condition,” said Dr Barwell.

AHA will continue to work with the sheep peak industry bodies to promote sheep health and on-farm biosecurity in 2018.

“We hope to continue the great momentum of the SHP and have a number of exciting activities in the pipeline for 2018,” said Dr Barwell.

Click here for more information on the SHP. For other tips and tricks to improve biosecurity for your sheep flock, go to the sheep industry page on the Farm Biosecurity website.