Biosecurity 101: Everyone’s responsibility

Rachael O’Brien, Manager Biosecurity & Extension, Queensland

In my previous article I concluded by discussing how weeds can be managed by neighbours working together with local and state authorities to maximise the effectiveness of weed programs. Right at the beginning of this series I also ran through the broader goal of on-farm biosecurity, namely to prevent weeds, pests and diseases from becoming established in a region in the first place.

Your biosecurity plan plays a role in the wider biosecurity system, assisting you to effectively monitor for and respond to unusual signs which may indicate a disease or pest incursions. To that end your responsibility for biosecurity doesn’t end when crops, livestock or products leave your farm.

You are responsible for any product moved off the property, such as livestock heading off to agistment or for sale. In Australia we have legislation that outlines our responsibility to our livestock for all stages of their time with us. These expectations are highlighted in the new animal welfare guidelines and standards (note you need to have read and understood this document and to have access to a copy for your Livestock Production Assurance animal welfare module). Supplying your buyers with Animal Health Declaration also provides assurances as to the health and welfare status of the livestock, for buyers to make decisions accordingly. We have further obligations when we are travelling our livestock. The Australian Animal Welfare Standards for the Land Transport of Livestock has been endorsed for legislation. It outlines guidelines that producers must consider when travelling livestock around Australia. The ‘Is It Fit To Load?’ guide is also a very helpful guide in assisting producers in assessing what is and what is not fit to load. As a general rule of thumb if it is noticeably injured or cannot put weight on all 4 feet then it is not fit to load. If in doubt, leave it out! Producers also have obligations in terms of reporting certain livestock movements to the NLIS database.

It is important that producers keep accurate records of biosecurity practices and staff training. If you do not have staff, you still have a responsibility to people who come and give you a hand e.g. family members or friends. It is particularly important if you leave people in charge of your stock from time to time. Do they know what to do if confronted with many sick animals and can they manage your animals to the same standard as you would in your absence? If you do have staff and they have undertaken training, document this. This information may already be documented under your work place health and safety obligations. If you feel like you are duplicating records you can make a note in your biosecurity plan to refer to these records for more information rather than reinventing the wheel.

Ensure your records are easy to find and in a safe place. In the event of an emergency disease incursion the aim of the game is to be able to hand over your records in a timely manner. Emergencies of any capacity are stressful so sorting out your records in peacetime is well worth the initial effort.

 

By now you should have a better understanding of not only what biosecurity entails, but also how you can implement a biosecurity plan covering the main risks of incursion. The Australian Government works to protect Australia from serious biosecurity threats every day, our island status is our best asset in managing diseases, pests and weeds but that doesn’t mean it could never happen. Our next level of protection is our state departments and our most important level is you. You are our on-the-ground level of defence and as such you have a responsibility to manage biosecurity not just for the sake of your own property but for your region and your industry as well.

You contribute to the national biosecurity system by having an on-farm biosecurity plan, with processes in place that in the event of a disease introduction you can play your part in detecting serious disease so it can be eradicated.

If you have any questions or wish to speak further about biosecurity on-farm, contact your state LBN manager.