Vaccinations possible source of LSD in Aus cattle in Indonesia, webinar told

James Nason, 01/08/2023


Priority testing to prove Australian cattle pose no disease risk to Indonesia commenced yesterday, a webinar involving cattle industry representatives and Australian Government officials was told last night.

The webinar, which attracted 350 registered participants, was organised to provide an industry-wide update on what is currently known about the circumstances that led to Indonesia suspending four Australian pre-export quarantine facilities from exporting cattle to Indonesia last Friday.

A file image showing an animal infected with lumpy skin disease. For more information about LSD on the Animal Health Australia website click here

Indonesia’s agriculture agency advised Australia’s Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry that the decision was made after 13 Australian cattle, which had been handled in those facilities, tested positive to LSD in Indonesia.

A highly infectious disease which does not affect humans, LSD has been spreading in cattle and buffalo across Indonesia since it was first confirmed in Sumatra in March 2022.

Despite significant testing and surveillance across Australia, which was ramped up following the detection of LSD in Indonesia last year, Australia has never recorded a positive detection of LSD.

That the disease could originate in cattle handled in four facilities stretching across the north from Western Australia to the Northern Territory and Queensland without the disease also being detected through Australia’s comprehensive testing program is considered highly unlikely.

Australian Government representatives addressing last night’s webinar said they believed the most likely situation was that the Australian cattle contracted LSD after their arrival in Indonesia, where the disease has been unfortunately widespread for more than a year.

It is also considered likely that at least some of the positive test results are a direct response to LSD vaccinations given to Australian cattle by importers to protect them from the disease after their arrival in the country.

Last night’s webinar was organised to share information by Australia’s industry taskforce on lumpy skin disease, which includes representatives from the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, the Red Meat Advisory Council, the National Farmers Federation, Australian Pork Limited and Australian Wool Innovation.

Key points raised throughout the webinar – which can be watched in full in the video above this story – included:

– Detections of LSD in the 13 Australian cattle in Indonesia occurred “a couple of weeks ago”, Agriculture Minister Murray Watt said.

– Indonesia is seeking further reassurances from Australia via testing of cattle in the four yards, and that testing began yesterday, the Minister said.

– Testing involves Australian biosecurity officials in partnership with their Indonesian counterparts, in the hope of allowing Australia to resume its full trade to all parts of the supply chain “as soon as possible” – no other time-frame for potential full trade resumption was able to be given.

– Agriculture minister Murray Watt said it was hoped the testing will reassure Indonesia that Australia is free from LSD, and to ensure that status is “understood very widely right around the world”.

– Minister Watt said there has been no suggestion from Indonesia that this suspension will apply to other facilities, only to the four suspended last Friday.

– Nor was there any suggestion from Indonesia or any other trading partner of a suspension of exports of processed meat or dairy products.

– Federal Government spokesperson Andrew McDonald said the identities of the four affected yards remained “commercially confidential, as it relates to our regulatory engagement with the owners”. “But we can express that there are four yards that span across northern Australia in WA, the NT and Qld”.

– The Minister also emphasised that this was not a “diplomatic or political” issue but a biosecurity or technical market access issue. “There is no suggestion whatsoever that this is a political act from the Indonesian Government, it is simply a biosecurity issue from their perspective and from ours and we’re handling it that way.”

– Minister Watt said he had expressed to his department his “expectation we do everything we possibly can to resolve this quickly”.

– Chief Veterinary Officer Dr Mark Schipp said Australia’s confidence that it is free of LSD is grounded on the surveillance that has been undertaken, along with the veterinary supervision of live exports to Indonesia and the awareness programs that have been running in northern Australia with producers and veterinarians since LSD entered Indonesia.

– In order to provide an assurance to Indonesia that LSD is not prevalent here, Australia will be testing about 65 cattle from each area, he said, with samples to be tested at regional laboratories and also at the Australian Centre for Disease Preparedness operated by CSIRO in Geelong.

– Indonesia would like Australia to exercise control over the movement of cattle from the yards it has currently suspended, however, the States and Commonwealth are not able to impose quarantine or movement restrictions, because Australia does not have “suspicion of the disease” here, Dr Schipp explained.  “This is posing to be a little challenge, because we have cattle in yards that are of concern to Indonesia and they will obviously want us to exercise some control on movement of those animals. We’re getting some movement advice on what is the best approach.”

– Three vessels are currently carrying Australian cattle to Indonesia. Dr Schipp said Indonesia has agreed to receive and unload those shipments. The cattle will be subject to scrutiny on arrival, he said. He also pointed the possibility that if the same procedures are followed with those cattle as has occurred in the past, there “may well be additional positive results there which we will have to address”.

– A number of questions were asked about whether producers who owned cattle in affected yards would be entitled to compensation. Government officials said they are currently focused on meeting the requirements and requests of the Indonesian authorities. “Should that (compensation) be something that needs consideration we will work with Government about that,” Mr McDonald said.

– Australian cattle cannot currently be vaccinated against LSD in Australia. As a live attenuated vaccine, applying the vaccine here would affect Australia’s own animal health status. “It would be seen as confirmation to trading partners that we have LSD which is not the case,” Dr Schipp said.

– He added that vaccinating cattle on the ship was also not desirable, in terms of occupational health and safety and access, so vaccination on arrival was the preferred approach.

– Another challenge is to ensure Australian cattle are vaccinated as early as possible after they arrive in Indonesia, so that they quickly gain immunity from this disease and “we’re able to distinguish between vaccinated and infected animals”.

– Asked if any other markets, such as Vietnam, had raised issues with Australia about LSD as a result of this process, Mr McDonald said he was not aware of that happening.


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  1. Anthea Henwood, 02/08/2023

    As Reported by ABC….
    Ross Taylor is the head of the Indonesian Institute and believes this ban on Australian cattle imports is indicative of broader political reasoning.

    “We have tended to treat the whole Indonesian live cattle export industry as a, ‘We sell; you buy’ relationship, rather than advancing the relationship to a true partnership,” he said.

    “I think that that tends to come out and play into these scenarios. It’s very complex, but it’s certainly more than just simply a reaction to lumpy skin disease.”

    More bluntly- Australian cattle producers have upset our Indonesian partners and politicians.
    (nothing to do with LSD).
    So what can we do to fix this?
    Needs more than trade ministers and vets.

  2. mick alexander, 01/08/2023

    Interesting discussions – first important point – that it is possible that the cattle contracted this illness after arrival in Indonesia. Second point that the cattle who contracted LSD were treated with an LSD vaccination on arrival to indonesia which could have caused them to become ill. So we can expect that any animals treated with the vaccination will contract LSD. So we should never treat any stock in Australia or that may cause a massive outbreak of LSD.
    Third important point – our biosecurity experts seems to have completely ignored the potential nutritional link which is imperative in nearly every disease issue. Its about time our biosecurity management sent research/ nutritionist staff to indonesia to assess the potential for specific deficiencies which are associated with stock contracting LSD symptoms. This multimillion dollar issue seems to be one sided leaning towards vaccinations alone and not looking for every possible solution. Please assess the nutritional link before it is too late.

  3. Val Dyer, 01/08/2023

    There is something significantly wrong about an LSD taskforce which does not include Cattle Australia as the preeminent representative of cattle producers.

    LSD does not affect pigs or sheep (according to Wikipedia).
    There should be direct liaison of governments with Cattle Australia and Australian Livestock Exporters Association which understand the issues and have direct contact with producers and other stakeholders.

    The webinar last night demonstrated the lack of knowledge of many in Canberra.
    It is not an NFF or RMAC issue.

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