HOW is Indonesia faring under the dual biosecurity challenges presented by the recent Foot & Mouth Disease and Lumpy Skin Disease outbreaks?
Consolidated Pastoral Co managing director Troy Setter has been in Indonesia this past week on company business, during which Beef Central contacted him for an ‘on-the-ground’ update.
While there have been no confirmed reports yet FMD being detected in Indonesia’s larger feedlots housing imported Australian cattle, certainly infection had been found in smaller farmholder-type feedyards, authorities have confirmed this week.
Mr Setter said he had not yet personally seen physical first-hand evidence of FMD infection, and he was ‘not going looking for it,’ because he did not want to become a potential transmission source.
“But the regular reports of cases being updated across the regions is certainly of great concern – both from Indonesia’s and Australia’s perspective,” he said.
“The spread has been pretty relentless, with cases popping up across large parts of the country over the past week.”
As of yesterday, outbreaks have now been confirmed in Aceh, Madan, central and western Java, widely dispersed across Sumatra, and Lombok on the eastern side of Bali. Reports have also emerged that infection has started in Kalimantan and Sulawasi provences.
Mr Setter said Indonesia had clearly activated a major response to the FMD disease challenge.
“Australian biosecurity and trade officials both in Australia and over here are in regular communication with their Indonesian equivalents. Australia has offered support, including supplies of FMD vaccine, but supplies of vaccine are yet to be made available on the ground,” Mr Setter said.
Some regional movement controls have now been enforced on ‘clean’ livestock, and herds where FMD has been identified are already being heavily restricted.
Beef Central asked what CPC and its feedlot partners in Indonesia were doing to keep the disease at bay in company feedlots.
“We already had strong biosecurity measures in place before the FMD and LSD outbreaks, but they have been redoubled since the disease detections,” Mr Setter said.
That included triple-spraying of all vehicles coming on-site, and severe restriction of movement of staff from site to site. Only the most essential people are being given access, with lots of boot washing and hand-washing occurring.
“But we still need to bring in substantial amounts of feed every day, and cattle have to continue to arrive and depart the feedlots,” Mr Setter said. “We are working closely with buyers and customers to minimise their visits to the yards.”
“Internally, there is a lot of segregation going on – breaking each feedlot site into zones, and strict rules applied about where staff can go, to minimise risk of broader infection.”
One of the big challenges was the significant number of people who worked in both CPC feedlots, and across cattle, sheep and/or goats.
“We are very mindful of the two-way transmission risk, and are working hard to keep it at bay. Working with those team-members has been really important,” Mr Setter said.
Beef Central asked whether the FMD event was likely to jeopardise ongoing CPC feedlot operations.
“Not at this stage, but we are very nervous until we get cattle vaccinated,” he said.
On top of the earlier Lumpy Skin Disease discovery, FMD had added a whole new layer of complexity to Indonesia’s biosecurity challenge, including bring another four species – goats, sheep, pigs and buffalo into the equation.
“To vaccinate all of those animals in Indonesia is going to be a huge task – particularly as the vast majority of them are held by smallholders, in very small herds, and there thousands of islands in the Indonesia archipelago,” Mr Setter said.
“You can’t take the animals to the vaccine, like we did with human COVID vaccine – the vaccine has to go out to the animals.”
But when Indonesia wants to do something, they have proven in the past they could get it done, Mr Setter said. The President himself had taken control of the country’s FMD response, and has committed to stamping-out the disease.
“That’s great, but what we have also seen is a dropping of attention being paid to Lumpy Skin Disease. I understand the reasons for that, but for Australia, that is concerning, because it means LSD could spread further and faster than what would otherwise have been the case,” he said.
There is no LSD vaccine available yet in Indonesia, with local suggestions it may be a matter of weeks before supplies become available. Animals in infected herds are being treated for recovery, with no compensation scheme to slaughter or dispose of LSD or FMD infected livestock so far.
Some public reporting in Indonesia has suggested mortality rates of 3pc in infected cattle. Risk of secondary infection once the FMD disease is present in a feedlot environment is regarded in industry circles as high.
Message for Australia: ‘Pre-map’
Asked what the take-home messages for Australia were from his observations while in Indonesia this week, Mr Setter said in his view, it was critically important for Australia to ‘pre-map’ what would happen if the Australian industry was to try to vaccinate the beef herd.
That would include how that vaccine would be distributed; how vaccinated animals would be identified; what the cold chain storage of meat would look like under a vaccination program; and who would pay for the vaccine and associated costs.
“It’s one thing for the Federal Government to import the vaccine, but there are a lot of steps that need to be pre-planned, before that can be injected into animals,” he said.
“That’s also been the big challenge in Indonesia for management of Lumpy Skin Disease. The government can secure the vaccine (the Australian Government has already given Indonesia a substantial quantity of LSD vaccine), but for us (CPC) there is still a ‘ten step’ process as a commercial company to get access to the vaccine and apply it. That is probably going to take around two months to complete,” Mr Setter said.
“Australia already has made major pre-preparation for a disease challenge through the AusVetPlan and other measures. But what we can learn from what’s happening in Indonesia is making sure those pre-determined plans are well communicated – not just with producers, but vets, bureaucrats, government personnel and others.”
Asked whether it was likely that Australia would send veterinarians or animal disease experts to Indonesia to assist, Mr Setter said Australia was in close dialogue with Indonesia already over technical and physical support.
“Indonesia does already have some really good technical personnel in place in the department. But treatment assistance and other support could be welcome – that’s up to Indonesia to decide,” he said.
Indonesia, with assistance from Australia, did manage to get on top of its previous FMD outbreak in the 1980s very quickly, but that infection episode was much more isolated.
“They have a track record of stamping the disease out quickly, but the difference is this time, it is already very wide-spread. The pleasing thing is that the President is absolutely talking about eradication,” Mr Setter said.
Original source of Indonesia’s FMD?
Some sources in Indonesia have speculated that FMD may have been present in the country for a period before the official detection was made last month, sources have told Beef Central.
Speculation also continues about the likely source of the outbreak.
The first is goats imported from nearby Malaysia, where FMD is endemic. Some say that is unlikely, because goat prices in Malaysia are astronomically higher than they are in Indonesia, meaning there was no commercial or logistical sense in the infection arriving through that channel.
The second is imported Indian buffalo meat. There was considerable debate within Indonesia about the FMD risk in frozen Indian buffalo meat, before trade was opened between the two countries some years ago.
Certainly the strain of FMD identified in Indonesia is the same as that found in India.
- See today’s separate update on the northern live export trade.
Well, to be fair the strain isolated from the FMD outbreak has is related to outbreaks in India but and also to outbreaks in many other countries in the south east Asia after that. So it will be very difficult to trace it back to a specific location. One has to consider that many countries in the region are endemic and that people may carry the virus, not only beef.
Indian Buffalo Meat is a front runner, as the source. The Indo Govn will not countenance that of course but there are already questions being raised.
If it is so, then surely the suspension of the live trade in 2011 has been the biggest own goal by the Australians in the history of the industry
This a very informative real world update from Troy with some important messages that should be overlayed with both countries plans to help check for gaps and close them quickly.