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FMD and LSD: Lots of talk but no meaningful action

Dr Ross Ainsworth and Greg Pankhurst, 21/07/2022

Lumpy Skin Disease (LSD) infection in Indonesia was officially announced on 3 March 2022. Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) infection was officially declared on 12 April.

Since that time, four months for LSD and three months for FMD, action to control both diseases has been slow, uncoordinated, under-funded and generally ineffective. For both diseases the most effective control method is vaccination. In both cases the vaccination response has been disappointing to say the least.

Sometime in the middle of June three million doses of FMD vaccine were imported into Indonesia. The government announced that 800,000 doses were distributed on 22 June with vaccinations commencing on 25 June. The balance of the vaccine, 2.2 million doses is still sitting in the fridge in Jakarta as of 15 July. Nobody seems to know why it can’t be distributed to farmers who are desperate to protect their stock from the FMD wildfire which continues to spread rapidly through the archipelago. On 14 July, following a meeting with the Indonesian Minister for Agriculture, Senator Watt, the Australian Minister agreed to send one million doses of FMD vaccine to Indonesia in August as well as $500,000 for training of personnel.

Both diseases can only be controlled in this environment with strong vaccination programs. Assuming a cattle herd of say 12 million with three doses of FMD vaccine needed in the first year, Indonesia needs 36 million doses just for their cattle population. This doesn’t account for millions of sheep, goats and pigs. One official estimate is that there are 65 million susceptible animals in Indonesia that need vaccine protection.  And LSD is so far off the radar it doesn’t even get a mention.

The risk that FMD will come to Australia is high and getting higher. LSD is definitely coming because regardless of our biosecurity measures, we are not capable of controlling the movement of insect vectors. Bali is now infected with FMD and hosting skyrocketing numbers of Aussie tourists. With minimal vaccination in Bali, the risk of transmission is high and rising. Rome is burning and the fire is in the neighbour’s house. The great fire of Rome started in Circus Maximus on 19 July 64 AD. Nero didn’t actually play the fiddle during the fire, but it appears he did little to control the blaze.

Australia needs to do more to protect itself from the FMD wildfire. I don’t doubt that our government is trying but I also expect that the Indonesian government simply doesn’t have the same level of urgency. They don’t export large volumes of products that might lose their market access due to FMD so what’s the rush?  Indonesia is establishing their own vaccine manufacturing plant which should be operational in about 3-6 months’ time. MLA collects $5 from every domestic cow transaction and about $3 from every bovine export so there are plenty of producer funds to do something if there is a collective will.

Given the apparent lack of a coherent plan, Greg Pankhurst, a long-time player in the Indonesian beef industry, has put together a brief plan and budget (at top of story) to deliver a full vaccination cover for Bali, i.e. 4 doses in 12 months. It involves the establishment of 50 vaccination teams and their support resources. The back of the envelope cost is in the order of AUD$32 million.  Assuming that this was accepted by the Indonesian government it has potential to bring the risk of FMD transmission from Bali to Australia from red hot to minimal, just like the rest of Asia. This would obviously require subsequent years of booster vaccines and would logically be combined with delivery of the LSD vaccine at the same time (but not included in the estimate). $32 million in one year might sound a lot but if you look at it as an insurance policy to prevent FMD coming to Australia at a cost of $32 billion suggesting a benefit-cost ratio of 1,000, that looks like money well spent.

Rome is burning and the fire is in the house next door. We need to do more than offer our neighbour a bucket of water or our house will surely catch fire next. A lot more action is required urgently.




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  1. Rob Atkinson, 22/07/2022

    This is the best plan to offer some assurance that Australia stays free of FMD and LSD.
    MLA, RMAC or AMIC would all be worth a call as I’m sure they would have funds set aside for emergency use for these situations.

  2. Rob Atkinson, 22/07/2022

    Sounds like a great plan to me.
    $32M would be a small price to pay and offer a lot more assurance that we may keep FMD and LSD out of Australia. Aren’t MLA, RMAC or other beef industry organisations sitting on emergency funds that could fund this program?

  3. Michael Butler, 22/07/2022

    Having lived and farmed through 2 FMD outbreaks in UK and seen the economic and psychological consequences I feel there should be no limits in the measures taken to prevent the disease entering Australia. Once here feral and wild animals would harbour and spread it for years to come with huge costs in trying to eliminate it while overseas markets were closed to our products.

  4. Peter Calder, 22/07/2022

    ALEC may well think that Australia has the best biosecurity system in the world, but unfortunately the Auditor General ( report 2021 ) considers that DAFF is incapable of ensuring the prevention of a major disease incursion. History has demonstrated that this is the case which is probably why many officials are talking about the inevitability of when it arrives.

    Peter Calder, Tea Gardens.

  5. Geoff Birchnell, 22/07/2022

    Time to throw the hat around. In the absence of appropriate urgency Producers would put their shoulder to the wheel on this. This could be voluntary and is possibly only $0.20-$0.50 per hd cattle, sheep, pigs etc to get the job done. Don’t wait for the support that’s not coming!

  6. Gil Schmidt, 21/07/2022

    Current vaccination progress in very concerning.
    Would it be possible to email this report to every Federal Parliamentary member?

  7. Stuart Austin, 21/07/2022

    Could not agree more Ross, Thankyou for your leadership and courage to express your concerns!

  8. Peter Hamilton, 21/07/2022

    with FMD in Australia and Indonesia, the cattle trade will press ahead… just not much money in it..
    (IBM) Indian buffalo meat price CIF Jakarta will be the new benchmark for Australian beef.. and cattle..

    So why would they bother to help the Aussies when the Aussies trashed the relationship 11 yrs ago?

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