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Which production issues affect your cattle? Abattoir surveillance means you could soon know

by James Nason, 30 May 2018

Various endemic diseases and parasites cost Australian cattle producers millions of dollars a year in lost production, but these losses are not always readily apparent to affected producers.

For several years cattle industry leaders have been calling for funding to beef up surveillance programs in abattoirs that will allow important information to be fed back to producers to help them to identify disease and parasite issues affecting their herds, and in turn to enable them to treat and manage the issue on-farm.

In an important step forward for both improving producer understanding of production losses, and the prevalence of production issues in various regions and nationally, the Federal Department of Agriculture and Water Resources has committed to funding a new abattoir surveillance program.

The Grazing Beef Cattle Industry Structured Surveillance Study will be managed by Animal Health Australia (AHA) and is supported by Cattle Council of Australia (CCA).

The study will run from this month through to the end of next year at a range of participating abattoirs, which have not yet been identified.

Cattle in those abattoirs will be inspected for evidence of endemic disease.

By the end of 2019 beef cattle producers will be receiving tailored information and resources for tackling disease priorities, which decrease profitability and threaten market access.


Related Article: Teys’ animal health feedback project aims to lift industry performance


Examples of the types of diseases on which data will be collected and reported back to producers include liver fluke and hydatids. In one case from an initial trial, one cattle producer only discovered through the feedback that hydatids had affected 80 percent of her herd.

Data will be collected to identify which diseases are having the greatest impact in a given region.

This in turn will help to ensure the right biosecurity information gets to the right areas, helping producers to target on-farm biosecurity plans to their greatest areas of risk.

“By drawing the link between strong farm biosecurity practices and production impacts of endemic disease, we can demonstrate the value of implementing a biosecurity plan at the farm level,” Cattle Council of Australia CEO Margo Andrae said.

Data received would also help to show that Australia is free from animal diseases of importance to international trade.

“This data will complement existing surveillance programs, which underpin our claims of freedom,”  Animal Health Australia CEO Kathleen Plowman said.

“If you’re a cattle producer and are contacted to participate, we strongly encourage you to take part.”

The study will commence this month and run until the end of 2019, when it will be assessed for its suitability as an ongoing program.

The grant agreement for Animal Health Australia to conduct a surveillance study in the grazing beef industry AHA follows an accepted nomination by Cattle Council of Australia to DAWR to initiate a study for the grazing beef industry.

The format of the study will begin with a survey of producers using a questionnaire, followed by sample collection from selected cattle and testing for specified diseases.

The questionnaire will seek information from producers on disease occurrence and exposure, disease management practices, disease knowledge gaps, productivity related to disease and biosecurity practices.

The CCA and DAWR are currently considering disease priorities to inform sample collection and testing. Initial discussions have identified a need to monitor cattle for endemic disease conditions and provide information and advice on the prevalence of these conditions back to producers. The DAWR has identified a need to acquire surveillance information on additional diseases to support trade and market access.

One objective of the study is to identify associations between on-farm biosecurity practices and herd health status for important disease conditions. Opportunities for improving cattle health through on-farm biosecurity practices will be identified and communicated back to grazing beef cattle producers to promote good biosecurity practice and translate findings into outcomes for producers.

Source: Animal Health Australia and Cattle Council of Australia



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