04 November 2022

Livestock Biosecurity: Foot and Mouth Disease

In May 2022, an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) was reported in cattle in Indonesia. Two months later, the FMD had been detected in Bali, a popular tourist destination for Australians.

FMD affects cloven-hoofed animals such as cattle, sheep, goats, and pigs. There is no known treatment or cure for the virus, which typically spreads through bodily fluids and takes several days for animals to show symptoms. Commonly, FMD transmits when animals are moved between farms or from farms to sale yards and processing facilities. While humans can't catch this disease (different from hand, foot and mouth disease), we can transfer it to animals through dirt, manure or animal bodily fluids sticking to our footwear and clothing.

The last time Australia suffered an outbreak of FMD was in the 1800’s, however there have been more recent outbreaks globally in Africa, the Middle East, South America and Asia. In 2001, the UK suffered a major outbreak of FMD which cost the economy £8bn. According to the University of Melbourne’s Centre of Excellence for Biosecurity Risk Analysis (CEBRA), the probability of “an internationally notifiable outbreak of FMD” occurring within the next five years in Australia is around 12%.

Biosecurity measures are important to protect our livestock industry and our disease free-status in global markets. Government and industry are working collaboratively to enhance our FMD preparedness and ensure that in the event of an incursion, it can be contained and eradicated as efficiently as possible. These activities include detailed response planning, fast tracking the development of vaccines, and new funding to drive a new national sheep and goat electronic identification system.

The Growth Drivers have also been working hard to future-proof Australia's electronic identification (eID) tagging system of livestock. Working with The Integrity System Company (ISC), who manage Australia’s on farm assurance and red meat supply chain traceability, TGD has led investigations to identify system improvements and new technologies that have the potential to provide system improvements in cattle, and how a system for sheep and goats could work. TGD has helped shine a light on the future user and system requirements, design and conduct field trials of new technologies, and plan industry adoption.

TGD’s MD Dr Scott Needham explains that…..‘’If there's a disease outbreak, just as we as humans have experienced with COVID, eID can be used to contact trace and identify which animals have been associated with other animals, and then authorities and responsible parties can take measures to limit the effects of the disease outbreak.’’

Part of The Growth Driver’s process of exploring potential eID options for sheep was completing a feasibility study to examine stakeholders opinions and identify challenges within the supply chain.

During this process, ‘’the federal government actually announced that it was going to mandate the use of (the eID) tags for the whole industry, ‘’ says Scott. ‘’So all of a sudden, rather than being a theoretical exercise, we were on a path for guaranteed eID adoption.’’

Another aspect of TGD’s work was looking at infrastructure costs and how, ‘’the system was going to actually work in terms of incentivising and penalising people to influence behaviours with the aim of achieving the full potential of the traceability system.’’

And that is what sets them apart from other innovation consulting firms.

‘’It is key to understand the needs of everyone in the supply chain and match those to the most suitable technologies. Our deep engagement with clients and members of the supply chain helps make the changing of work practices or adopting a new technology much easier to manage and more likely to succeed’’ — Dr. Scott Needham

The Growth Drivers team includes people from a variety of backgrounds; formal engineering design, behavioural science, economics, and business. It is this diversity of experiences that propels TGD’s desire to create tangible impacts for their clients, whether it be through their work on electronic tagging systems for livestock or any number of projects across horticulture, food and agriculture.

If you want to have a chat with us about how we can help your team and your projects, reach out at [email protected]

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