Industry comes to livestock standstill

The West Australian

More than 60 livestock industries and government representatives joined forces in Perth last week to work through their respective sectors' preparedness to communicate and implement a livestock standstill if foot-and-mouth disease occurred in Australia.

Hosted by the Department of Agriculture and Food (DAFWA), the State discussion exercise brought together industry representatives from the sectors that would be most heavily impacted by a livestock standstill.

These included transporters, saleyards, processors, stock agents, exporters, intensive industries, agricultural shows, animal welfare and producer associations.

Government bodies that would assist during a livestock standstill also participated, led by DAFWA.

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The discussion exercise, which followed four regional workshops held in Katanning, Muchea, Mt Barker and Bunbury earlier in 2014, forms part of the national year-long program for Exercise Odysseus.

Exercise Odysseus is a nationally co-ordinated program of more than 50 local, State and national activities to assess preparedness for a national livestock standstill.

WA acting chief veterinary officer Michelle Rodan said the day had been extremely valuable in bringing together industry and government to examine the plans in place for a standstill, and to identify potential improvements.

"If foot-and-mouth disease does occur in Australia, implementing a national livestock standstill on animals susceptible to foot-and-mouth disease, initially for 72 hours, is the key weapon we have to control spread of the disease," Dr Rodan said.

"Limiting the spread of the disease will make it easier and faster to eradicate, and will reduce the cost to both government and industry.

"To do this successfully requires that industry and government have workable plans in place and that they understand their roles in implementing a standstill."

Dr Rodan said Australia's freedom from foot-and-mouth disease underpinned access to export markets for many of our agricultural products.

"A large, multi-state outbreak could devastate our livestock industries, close major export markets for several years, and cost up to $52 billion over 10 years, according to recent Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics (ABARES) estimates," she said.

Dr Rodan said outcomes from the day's discussions included agreement to draft an integrated communications plan for government and industry, establishment of a working group to refine the guidelines for stock in transit when a standstill was called, agreement between producer bodies of the need to co-operate, agreement to undertake another scenario-based workshop, and to examine the mechanisms to support industry recovery.

"I would like to commend all the participants who took part in the exercise in a spirit of co-operation, and for their recognition of the role their sector would need to play during a standstill," she said.

"The outcomes from these discussions will be fed back to the relevant national bodies and will inform Federal planning for a national livestock standstill."

For more information about a livestock standstill, go to the national livestock standstill webpage on the DAFWA website at agric.wa.gov.au.

There is also an online quiz that will test knowledge about a standstill.

More information about Exercise Odysseus is available at website daff.gov.au/exerciseodysseus.

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