By Roger Paskin, Chief Veterinary Officer, Biosecurity SA, PIRSA
“Biosecurity”. It’s a word that we have all heard; it is used so often and in so many different contexts that for many, it has lost its meaning.
The legal definitions of biosecurity are many and varied. What it comes down to is that biosecurity is simply a set of measures designed to protect a given population against harmful biological threats (diseases and pests) or biochemical substances.
Within this definition there is no notion of who actually “does” biosecurity. Unfortunately, with the advent of government agencies carrying the work “biosecurity” within their names, the concept has led to a common belief that biosecurity is “something that governments do.”
Nothing could be further from the truth. Biosecurity – taking active measures to prevent the incursion and spread of diseases and pests of plants and animals – is the most basic responsibility of each and every manager or owner of land.
The most powerful and effective biosecurity regulation is the regulation applied by each producer at his or her farm gate.
- What arrives on a farm is the responsibility of the producer.
- What leaves the farm is the responsibility of the producer.
I’ve had some jarring experiences recently – seeing a producer buying in sheep only to experience crippling footrot a few months later. And seeing another producer sending sheep off to saleyard for public sale with footrot.
Sending diseased stock into a saleyard (from where they can potentially be distributed right across Australia) with any disease at all is a dangerous practice and jeopardises the productivity of other producers. If such animals are going to be sent anywhere at all, it should be for slaughter.
Likewise, accepting animals onto one’s property without carefully checking their health status as well as that of the herd or flock of origin is simply inviting trouble.
Biosecurity is the key to safe, health production and ultimately the key to prosperity. The 2001 FMD outbreak in the UK would never have escalated to the extent that it did had a relatively small number of producers not sent diseased pigs and sheep to saleyards. Basic farm biosecurity measures are everyone’s duty. They are the best insurance policy that we have.
PIRSA will be having a lot more to say about biosecurity in the coming months. And remember, if you’re not sure, contact your nearest veterinarian or PIRSA animal health officer. Biosecurity is everyone’s responsibility.