Bushfires and biosecurity

Frances Gartrell, Manager Biosecurity & Extension, Western Australia

With a greater focus on biosecurity on-farm, following the addition of biosecurity requirements to Livestock Production Assurance (LPA) and the Johne’s Beef Assurance Score (J-BAS), producers nationwide are considering how best to manage biosecurity on their property. With the bushfire season being underway in most states, one of the pressing questions many farmers are asking is “How does my biosecurity plan help manage risks during and after a fire?”

Firstly, it is important to realise that all emergency services and utilities are automatically authorized to enter a property in the event of an emergency. Secondly, remember that, in an emergency, biosecurity comes second.

You will not lose accreditation with LPA or any other integrity system because your biosecurity plan was breached during an emergency! Emergency situations require drastic and prompt action to protect yourself, your livestock and ultimately your business. In an emergency, it’s all about survival.

Having said that, your biosecurity plan can incorporate a few actions to prepare you for an emergency, bushfire or otherwise.

Before an emergency

As recommended by the fire and emergency services, it’s important that all properties in a fire area are prepared. Chose early on whether you are going to stay and defend or evacuate your property. Plan what you are going to do with animals (including both pets and livestock), taking time to consider if you are going to evacuate the animals, where will you take them and how will you transport, feed and water them. It’s a good idea to discuss your evacuation plan with neighbours and, if possible, negotiate a mutual evacuation plan.

After the emergency

Immediately upon returning to the property, check for any injured and dead animals. Treat or euthanize animals as needed and dispose of any carcasses appropriately, as determined by your biosecurity plan.

In the days or weeks following the fire

Check fences and water points for damage. Repair, replace and reposition as required.

Once you are confident about the status of your infrastructure, organise to gather your evacuated animals or prepare for the arrival of any replacement stock.

Before bringing stock back onto property

Quarantine the returning or replacement animals for a minimum of two weeks. This will allow you the opportunity to monitor the animals’ health and also allow them to clear out their digestive systems, reducing the introduction of weeds. Ensure you receive a National Vendor Declaration and animal health declaration and complete the transfer in the NLIS database.

During the quarantine period

Check the animals regularly for any signs of diseases or health issues. Take the opportunity to shear, drench, vaccinate and treat for lice and worms.

If you are receiving or purchasing external food, hay or grain, store these inside or close to the quarantine area and monitor the area for new vegetation, weeds, prickles and shoots.

During quarantine and after introducing the animals back into the property

Monitor and check your stock regularly, ensuring they are eating and drinking. Report and manage any new health or pests immediately upon discovery.

 

Ensuring that a few basic actions such as these form part of your biosecurity plan and emergency response plan will help to ensure that your livestock is protected throughout an emergency and the following recovery period. For more information on biosecurity planning, contact your local LBN manager.