Biosecurity for producers agisting or leasing country
Bonnie Skinner, Manager Biosecurity and Extension, New South Wales
With the recent introduction of the Johne’s Beef Assurance Score (J-BAS) and the biosecurity module to the Livestock Production Assurance (LPA) program, many producers with stock on agistment or lease blocks, as well as the landowners, are asking how they can manage biosecurity risks when it comes to these types of arrangements. Producers must also be aware of their National Livestock Identification System (NLIS) obligations for recording stock movements.
For producers wanting to agist livestock or lease a block, there may be biosecurity risks associated with moving livestock to a new environment that could affect livestock health. Livestock returning from agistment or lease blocks should also be closely assessed for biosecurity concerns to ensure that disease or weed seeds are not spread between properties. Landowners who provide agistment or lease land on which they run their own stock must also consider the risks that introducing new livestock to their property poses. This is particularly important for those who are actively managing endemic diseases, or are maintaining or aiming for a higher-level J-BAS score.
There are a number of risk-management strategies agistees, lessees and the landowner can take to minimise biosecurity risks.
Producers seeking agistment or to lease a block of land should conduct a pre-agreement inspection of the land intended for livestock. Ideally this should be done in person, or by a trusted representative sent to inspect the property, such as a stock agent. From a biosecurity perspective the property inspection should consider the following:
- Boundary and internal fencing should be inspected to ensure fencing will contain livestock. Broken or missing fences can allow your stock to wander into neighbouring holdings which could result in exposure to unknown biosecurity risks.
- Livestock handling facilities should be inspected to ensure they are fit for purpose to carry out routine animal health management such as inspection, drenching, injecting, and other treatments.
- Enquire about contaminated sites or chemical exposure. A contaminated site is that which has been exposed to chemicals that can have long lasting residuals in the environment. Livestock must not have any access to sites potentially containing persistent chemicals (i.e. lead, organochlorine pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyls, and cadmium). These may be found on rubbish dumps or areas containing discarded farm equipment such as old batteries, chemical storage sheds, machinery and old dip sites. The owner of the land could also provide written assurances on chemicals recently applied to paddocks or neighbouring facilities. This is particularly important when the agistment or lease block is near cropping areas. LPA accredited producers who keep livestock on agistment or lease blocks will also be expected to complete a National Vendor Declaration (NVD) waybill. It is important that stock owners have the knowledge to accurately answer questions on the NVD that relate to chemicals and food safety. Most states have a publicly available contaminated site register. For more information contact your relevant state department.
- Assess the property for weeds. Some weeds are harmful to livestock. If weeds are present on the agistment block but not at your home property you may need to consider how you will prevent the introduction of new weeds when stock return from agistment.
- Water should be assessed for availability and quality. Water can be tested for salinity, the presence of heavy metals/ chemicals, blue-green algae and organic material if stock owners have any concerns.
- Other livestock present on the property should also be considered when entering into agistment or lease agreements.
Animal health declaration
Landowners should request an animal health declaration for stock moving to their property for agistment or lease, particularly if their own stock will be residing on the same property. The Cattle Health Declaration will provide information about the agistee/lessee’s J-BAS score, which some landowners may request be equivalent or higher than their own score.
It is imperative that anyone entering into an agistment or lease arrangement prepare a written agreement. Many agreements are entered into verbally or ‘on a handshake’, which becomes highly problematic in the event of a dispute. Below is a list of biosecurity considerations to include in the written agreement:
- The ‘person in charge of livestock’: each person entering into the agreement should identify their roles and responsibilities for monitoring the livestock and how frequently, authority to request a vet if needed and the procedure to follow in the case of a disease outbreak. This is particularly important if the agistee/lessee lives a long distance from the property and is unable to regularly check on the stock.
- NLIS animal movements: all livestock movements on to and off the property must be recorded on the NLIS database. The agreement should clarify whether the landowner will record these movements, or if the Property Identification Code (PIC) is to be supplied to the agistee/lessee for them to update the NLIS database. In most states, legislation determines that it is the responsibility of the receiving property to report livestock movements to the NLIS database within 2-7 days (depending on time-frame specified by the state or territory). Failure to report NLIS movements to the database within legislated time frames may result in prosecutions by the respective state or territory. The landowner may also need to supply NVD documents with the PIC of the agistment/lease property to the agistee/lessee if they are LPA accredited producers.
- Animal identification: Any calves, lambs or kids born on the property or livestock that have lost their tags or devices will require identification with the PIC of the agistment or lease block. The agreement should outline if the tags with the property’s PIC are to be supplied by the landowner. It is possible to obtain the property owner’s permission to order devices printed with the agistment PIC.
- The landowner should consider including minimum biosecurity requirements in the agreement, for example:
- All incoming livestock are to be accompanied by an animal health declaration.
- All incoming livestock will be quarantined for a period (i.e. 7-21 days) in a designated area and monitored for illness.
- All incoming livestock are to be drenched for internal and external parasites upon arrival whilst in quarantine. Livestock should be allowed 48 hours to empty out in the yard following an induction drench.
- The agistee/lessee is supplied with a copy of the landowner’s biosecurity plan and agrees to adhere to the biosecurity principles specified.
Sending livestock to agistment or leased block:
- Prepare an animal health declaration for animals being sent to agistment or the lease block and provide to the landowner.
- Check legislative requirements in your state in respects to moving livestock (cattle tick requirements, record keeping requirements, NLIS requirements).
- Prepare NLIS movement documents. If livestock are being transported interstate, check with the destination state or territory to ensure animals meet entry requirements and are accompanied by the appropriate documentation: New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia, Western Australia, Northern Territory, Queensland, Australian Capital Territory. If the landowner is an LPA accredited producer, all livestock introduced on to or dispatched from the PIC must be accompanied by an accurately completed NVD which must be kept with the landowners records for a minimum of 3 years (or in accordance with statutory requirements; or for the duration of livestock on a PIC whichever is the longest period).
- Producers can contact local government veterinarians where the animals are being moved to to discuss potential disease risks present in the area so that appropriate management procedures can be carried out before livestock leave their home property.
- Ensure livestock are fit to travel and are sent in an appropriate body condition and in accordance with the Fit to Load Guidelines.
- Ensure the movement of livestock from your property to the agistment/lease property has been entered into the NLIS database. If you are not completing the transfer, request an Upload ID for the movement and keep this number with your records as proof of its submission.
Returning livestock to their home property
Livestock returning from agistment or a leased block should be isolated from home stock for a period of time and treated for internal and external parasites. Using a combination/multi-active drench will assist in reducing the risk of introducing drench resistant parasites to the home property. Isolating stock in small yards or paddocks on arrival after drenching will also aid in disease management and weed seed spread.
Isolation time frames should be worked out based on the situation you are trying to manage. For example if you are isolating to minimise weed spread of a specific species that stays in the animals gut for 7 days (e.g. prickly acacia) then your isolation period should be at least 7 days. Producers who cannot isolate and feed animals in yards for these time frames may consider having a designated smaller paddock for returning stock. Whilst weeds may spread to this paddock, the smaller size of the area means you can more easily monitor for them and implement a treatment program to prevent the weeds from establishing.
All LPA accredited PIC’s are subject to random audits and must comply with the LPA Rules and Standards, which includes having a property biosecurity plan. For LPA accredited producers who are agisting stock or leasing country, there are two options:
- If livestock are being agisted/reside on leased property whose landowner is also LPA accredited (and therefore who’s PIC is registered with the LPA program) the agistee/lessee can be supplied with the landowners NVD’s for moving animals off the property for sale, slaughter or to another property. It is the landowner’s responsibility to meet the standards in seven areas set by the LPA, including having a property biosecurity plan. For the landowner, this plan should include any agisted livestock as part of its risk management.
- The agistee/lessee can obtain their own, separate LPA accreditation for the existing PIC, and access their own NVDs for that PIC. This additional LPA account in the agistees/lessee’s name is also then subject to the LPA Standards and is auditable. The agistee/lessee will need to have their own property biosecurity plan for this property. This option will likely be most suitable for long-term lease agreements where the lessee is managing the entire property, or where the landowner is not LPA accredited or running their own livestock. For an agistee/lessee to access an existing LPA account or create their own LPA account, a third party authorisation form will need to be completed and returned to LPA administration. To obtain a copy of the form, please call the LPA hotline on 1800 683 111 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Producers who require further information on any topic within this article can contact their LBN state manager.