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MacLoran Farm

Is your business prepared to survive an emergency animal disease (EAD) outbreak on your farm?

Is your business prepared to survive an emergency animal disease (EAD) outbreak on your farm?

A recent biosecurity risk exercise facilitated by the Centre of Excellence for Biosecurity Risk Analysis found there is a 42 per cent probability of a significant animal disease outbreak occurring in Australia within the next five years. This means that Australian livestock industries need to be prepared to respond to an EAD outbreak.

Australia’s red meat sector has been fortunate enough to have never experienced a serious EAD incursion, so it is difficult for producers to comprehend what an EAD incursion could look like for them and their business.

It is feared that this complacency means many of our livestock businesses won’t survive an EAD outbreak because they are ill-prepared to respond, which will have serious economic, social, and environmental impacts.

Most producers are aware of the negative impacts endemic diseases can have on their farms and businesses, and therefore take appropriate measures to mitigate those impacts. However, the collective understanding of what will happen in an EAD outbreak needs to be improved for producers to prepare adequately.

So how can you prepare for something you’ve never seen unfold first-hand? And what happens in an EAD outbreak?

It all starts with a report. As we already know it is everyone’s responsibility to monitor their livestock and report any unusual clinical signs of disease to their local private or government vet, animal health officer or by calling the emergency animal disease hotline on 1800 675 888.

This on-farm surveillance is the first line of defense to ensure disease is investigated and assessed quickly. Early incident reporting reduces the chance for spread and can lead to better outcomes for control and eradication.

If an EAD outbreak is suspected, a national response will take place. This will involve the Commonwealth Government through the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment, all state and territory governments, and affected livestock industries. Livestock producers will be notified by their relevant authority – for example, in South Australia, this is the Department of Primary Industries and Regions (PIRSA).

The impact that an EAD may have on daily operations will depend on the proximity of the business or property to the outbreak and the severity of the outbreak. It will be extremely important that everyone follows instructions provided by the relevant authorities carefully to ensure the issue is resolved as quickly as possible.

While initial investigation into the source and spread of the disease is undertaken, producers in affected regions may have restrictions placed on the movements of livestock, products, fodder, workers, and themselves, as well as their family, off the farm.

Shipments of livestock, products (such as wool or milk), and other affected commodities across the value chain may need to be stopped or delayed. Producers may also be asked to isolate their livestock and prepare for disease testing by authorities.

These movement restrictions may impact on-farm practices significantly – for example, where livestock cannot be moved off farm welfare implications may arise especially in intensive industries. Disease eradication may take weeks or even months, so producers need to be prepared to hold their livestock for a prolonged period and, critically, must be aware of and prepared for the animal welfare implications that may result from restricted livestock movements and feed availability.

In the case that authorities place a farm in quarantine, all property perimeters will need to be secured by locking gates and limiting visitor access to only essential personnel to minimise potential exposure and manage the risk of disease spread. Movements of all people, machinery and livestock must also be recorded.

Producers also need to be prepared for humane destruction of their livestock if the disease is detected on their farm or if feed availability is unable to support the livestock on hand.

With increased awareness, producers will be better able to prepare their businesses for a worst-case scenario, and to respond quickly and effectively to minimise the impacts to their own businesses as well as the broader industry.

It is paramount that producers formulate a plan for how they would respond in the event of an EAD outbreak as part of their on-farm biosecurity planning.

Find out more by accessing resources from, by talking to your PIRSA animal health officer, or by calling Livestock SA on 08 8297 2299 to talk to one of the members of the biosecurity extension team.

The South Australian Livestock Biosecurity Extension project has been made possible by the South Australian Government’s Red Meat and Wool Growth Program and Animal Health Australia through the National Sheep Industry Biosecurity Strategy 2019-2024.

Published: 4 July 2022

Industry Development:

Biosecurity Emergency Animal Disease