Post-farm biosecurity a focus for the wool industry

Bridget Peachey- AWI Program Manager

Australian Wool Innovation (AWI) is funding a number of biosecurity projects to ensure the wool industry is prepared post-farm to respond to an emergency animal disease outbreak such as Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD). Led by the Federation of Australian Wool Organisations (FAWO) Emergency Animal Disease (EAD) Working Group, the industry has developed an EAD preparedness research, development and extension strategy for 2016/17-2018/19.

Australia has very well-developed plans to control or eradicate certain EADs should they enter, but industries are generally less well-organised post-farm gate. The FAWO EAD Working Group aims to address the knowledge gap in the post farm preparedness in the event of an EAD.

The EAD Working Group brings together companies and peak bodies involved in the wool value chain in Australia from farm to export, with membership drawn from WPA, AWI, AWEX, AWTA, brokers and many others. The wool industry is a leader in EAD preparedness, as recognised when FAWO received an Australian Biosecurity Award in 2014.

The industry’s current EAD preparedness activities are set out in FAWO’s research, development and extension strategy for 2016/17-2018/19 which can be downloaded here). The Strategy can be summarised as follows:

Recent achievements of the program are:

  1. Traceability

In an EAD outbreak, it will be very important to trace animals and animal products backwards and forwards from centres of infection. AWI commissioned a study to assess how readily wool could be traced through the value chain. The study showed that most lines of baled wool can be reliably traced but the process is time-consuming because not all systems are directly linked.

FAWO is currently seeking to ensure that farm Property Identification Codes (PICs) are included in the information accompanying wool, as the PIC is the identifier used by government when managing disease outbreaks.

  1. Bale disinfection

Bales may need to be disinfected if they left a property later found to be infected or were exposed to other sources of infection. A prototype unit that will allow rapid disinfection of the outside of wool bales has been developed by AWTA with AWI funding (see photo below).

Initial evaluation of the bale sprayer has been completed. This work included an assessment of the effects of citric acid (the disinfectant that would be used against FMD) on wool just inside the nylon pack. No negative effects were found. Further field trials are planned for 2018/19.

  1. Wool disinfection

If a disease agent is suspected to be present within wool bales or loose wool, then that agent will need to be deactivated before the wool will be suitable for any movement including export. For most diseases of concern, this will mean storing the wool for a period of time sufficient to kill off the agent. The time required depends on the temperature to which the agent is exposed.

A project to develop a system to track the accumulation of ‘heat units’ (time x temperature) in baled wool is underway. The project will also examine the relationship between in-bale and ambient temperatures.

It is hoped that this system will give trading partners confidence that wool has been stored for long enough to deactivate any disease agent that may have been present.

  1. Codification

Considerable effort has gone towards ensuring the wool industry has the necessary plans in place to for an EAD event. The government/industry framework, ‘AUSVETPLAN’, includes wool enterprises but the wool-related information in it is not as cohesive and comprehensive as it could be.

A specific ‘Wool Enterprise Manual’ was developed in 2015. Proposed updates to this and other AUSVETPLAN manuals have recently been submitted to Animal Health Australia and are being reviewed. These updates will make clearer how wool and wool enterprises should be handled in the case of an EAD outbreak, minimising the time before they can resume trade.

A template EAD response plan has also been developed for wool enterprises such as brokers’ stores and test houses. Supporting the template is an online ‘Biosecurity Risk Assessment Tool’ that helps identify biosecurity weaknesses that may delay a wool enterprise from returning to trade. The tool will shortly be available on the FAWO and AWI websites.

  1. Capacity building

A 5-hour workshop to prepare wool enterprises for an EAD event is being piloted in March/April with three organisations. The workshop will explain how the business would be affected by an EAD event and what steps can be taken during ‘peacetime’ to minimise these impacts. If the pilot is successful the training may be rolled out more broadly across the industry.

Further information on the industry’s EAD preparedness activities can be obtained from the AWI Program Manager, Bridget Peachey, on 02 8295 3139 or at bridget.peachey@wool.com.