Biosecurity is central to Animal Health


Dr Rob Barwell, Senior Manager Biosecurity, Animal Health Australia

Biosecurity is an important topic in the livestock industry, with wide-ranging implications at the government, industry and farm levels. These not only include concerns around animal health, welfare, food safety and market access, but also around productivity – and by extension profitability.

Australia’s core strength in safeguarding its biosecurity has always been our geographical isolation, although the ever-increasing movement of people and goods continues to present new threats over time. Though prevention is far better than cure, our national animal health system must be prepared to respond to exotic disease, pest and weed incursions.

Our role

As custodians of the Emergency Animal Disease Response Agreement, known as the EADRA, Animal Health Australia (AHA) plays a key supporting role in the system, promoting and enhancing biosecurity at the government, industry and farm levels. In doing so, we assist our members – including the Australian Government, state and territory governments and livestock industry bodies – in meeting their biosecurity commitment under the EADRA.

At a government level, this involves AHA being represented on committees and in forums, participating in training exercises and response simulations, and providing a conduit for cooperation between different jurisdictions.

For our industry members, AHA provides knowledge and expertise across a wide variety of projects which support biosecurity, animal health and welfare, as well as working towards the early detection of emerging threats and maintaining domestic and international market access.

Sheep industry projects

Among these is the Sheep Health Project, which pursues biosecurity and animal health outcomes to boost the productivity and profitability of the sheepmeat and wool industries. The project provides a number of tools to producers and the sheep supply chain – including the National Sheep Health Declaration. This key document allows producers to convey information about the health status of their sheep, as well as any treatments and vaccinations they’ve received, to potential buyers.

AHA also manages the National Ovine Johne’s Disease Management Plan and the Market Assurance Program, known as SheepMAP, for the sheep industries. Both programs help to reduce the prevalence of Johne’s disease – a serious wasting disease – in the national sheep flock. These programs are currently under review – the national sheep industry bodies will use these reviews to determine future management of ovine Johne’s disease.

On-farm and supply chain biosecurity

An important strategy for the prevention and control of any biosecurity threat is raising awareness. At the farm level, we work with our members to build a greater understanding of the benefits of proactive biosecurity measures among livestock producers and the wider supply chain.

The Farm Biosecurity Program, run in conjunction with Plant Health Australia, promotes proactive biosecurity on-farm. The program is built around the six essentials for on-farm biosecurity, which are broad categories for assessing and managing risks, which can then be customized to suit each property.

Housed on the program’s website is a wide range of information to help producers build their understanding of what biosecurity entails and how it can be implemented at the farm level. The program also provides tools and resources to assist them in putting together a biosecurity plan to protect their property against disease, pest and weed threats.

Survey data collected by the Farm Biosecurity Program has found that producers’ level of awareness of biosecurity has continued to grow over the past decade, with producers showing a clearer understanding of what biosecurity means in the greater context of government and industry, as well as on their farm.

We look forward to improving not only this result, but also outcomes across our range of projects, sharing the benefits of a robust biosecurity system with governments, industry organisations and especially farmers nationwide.