Animal Biosecurity

Protect your animals from pests and disease

Biosecurity is relevant to everyone who owns or works with animals. This is not limited to livestock and poultry, in fact simple biosecurity measures can protect your pet bird, dog or other family pet from pests and disease. Biosecurity can also protect you. Some animal diseases are 'zoonotic' - which means they can also affect humans.

Below are some simple biosecurity measures that you can adopt around livestock and pets.

Keep it clean

Soil, organic material, mucus, saliva and manure can carry disease which then can easily be spread on clothing, equipment and vehicles.

Washing your hands with soapy water before and after handling animals is one of the easiest biosecurity measures you can take. This is particularly important if you are dealing with animals you suspect are unwell.

Keeping equipment clean is also important. Don't share your animal's gear or equipment with others. This includes drenching and injecting equipment, headstalls, lead ropes and saddlery. If your equipment has been used on other animals, clean it thoroughly and then apply a disinfectant (disinfectant can be safely used on leather equipment such as saddles).

Where animals from different properties are using the one vehicle, the interior of the float or truck should be washed out and disinfected before loading new animals.

It is important to remember that you need to thoroughly clean an item before it will be satisfactorily disinfected.

Keep storage areas clean, dry and tidy, ensuring feed bins have secure lids.  This will assist in detering wild birds, rodents and other pests.

Clean out water troughs regularly and don't place them under trees or where birds or bats perch.

Visitors

Managing the movement of visitors on your property is one way of preventing pests and diseases spreading onto your property. Some diseases, as seen during the 2007-08 equine influenza outbreak, can be very easily spread from one animal to another on people's clothing, in their hair and on their vehicle.

Have a designated area for visitor parking which is well away from your shed, animal thoroughfares and paddocks.

If your visitors have had contact with other animals prior to arriving on your property, ask them to wash their hands before patting or working with your animals. This is particularly important with vets, farriers and other livestock service providers. Ensure they wear clean clothes and boots, or supply some for them to wear on your farm.

Visitor Registers can be downloaded from the farm biosecurity website.

Related information:

Quarantine new animals

Livestock and birds that are new to your property should be quarantined for one week before they're introduced to your existing flock or herd. This will allow most disease symptoms to show before possibly infecting the remainder of your herd or flock.

Quarantine is a period of isolation, so a paddock that does not directly adjoin paddocks holding livestock should be used, or a yard. In regards to poultry, a separate cage or shed should be used.

Where possible obtain a Commodity Vendor Declaration (CVD) or a By-product Vendor Declaration (BVD).  These are available from Meat and Livestock Australia.

Keep records

Keep a detailed log of animals that are coming onto, and going off your property. This information should include where the animals have come from, transport dates and details of any identification markings or tags.

These records can greatly assist if there is an emergency animal disease outbreak in your area, so animal movements can be rapidly traced, and the disease contained.

If you employ itinerant workers on your farm, keeping a record of when they arrive, when they leave and their contact details (such as a mobile phone number), can also assist agricultural authorities during an emergency repsonse.

Forms for biosecurity record keeping can be downloaded from the farm biosecurity website.

Buffer zone

Where possible, create a 'buffer zone' with your neighbours through measures such as double fencing and wind breaks.

Feral animals and wild birds

Feral pest animals (such as foxes, wild dogs and cats) are known for attacking livestock, causing losses and injuries. The spread of pests and disease by feral animals is a major biosecurity risk. Where possible, don't allow your stock to mix with feral animals.

For poultry and other birds you should keep adopt measure that will keep wild birds away from your domestic birds. Netting over your chook run is highly recommended.

Feed and water should be positioned so that it's not open to attracting wild birds. Water supplied from dams should be treated before offering it to your birds.

See more information on bird and poultry biosecurity.

Don’t feed swill to animals

The feeding of swill (food waste, garbage or other products likely to contain unsterilised meat) to pigs provides the most viable and likely opportunity for the FMD virus to establish in Australia. This is because in order to establish in Australia, the FMD virus must not only bypass Australia’s biosecurity controls at the border, it must also be exposed to a susceptible host.

Swill feeding provides a critical opportunity for the establishment of the FMD virus. Pigs are susceptible to FMD infection through their mouth. Unlike other susceptible but herbivorous animals, pigs are more likely to be exposed to, and eat products containing the virus. Imported meat and dairy products that are subsequently fed to pigs as swill, pose the most significant risk for FMD to establish in Australia.

Most of the FMD risk materials that might enter Australia are likely to be in the form of illegally imported meat products. Overseas experience shows that pigs are the most likely animals to become exposed and infected due to their omnivorous (eating both meat and plant products) habits. This is why swill feeding is illegal in all Australian states and territories.

Pigs excrete about 1 000 times more virus in expired air (aerosols) than other ruminants (cloven-hoofed animals).  This makes it likely that once established as a result of feeding pigs swill, FMD could spread to nearby livestock and become well-established before being detected and reported. This is consistent with the experiences of other countries where swill feeding of pigs has been the cause of major FMD outbreaks, including the devastating outbreak in 2001 in the United Kingdom.

The producer involved in the United Kingdom outbreak was licensed under a national scheme to feed ‘treated swill’ to pigs, but clearly the swill had not been treated or had been inadequately treated to inactivate the virus.

A generic import risk assessment conducted by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry concluded that swill-feeding by small landholders and backyard pig producers would lead to a ‘high’ annual likelihood of FMD exposure for Australia.

Know what to look for

You know your animal well enough to know if something is wrong. Common signs of a sick animal can include:

  • sores or ulcers
  • excessive dribbling from the mouth
  • diarrhoea especially with blood
  • large discharges from any orifice such as the nose
  • not eating properly or off their feed
  • dramatic decreases in production such as milk from cows or eggs from chickens
  • non-responsive animals
  • staggering or head drooping
  • severe lameness
  • swollen heads
  • inability to rise
  • unexplained deaths.

Report it

Veterinary attention should be sought for sick animals. Importantly with livestock, if you think your stock or birds are showing signs of an exotic disease you must report this to your vet or the Emergency Animal Disease Watch Hotline on 1800 675 888. This will put you in touch with your Department of Primary Industries or Agriculture which will provide advice to you on the most appropriate course of action.

If you suspect a disease, isolate sick animals and do not visit neighbouring farms until the cause has been determined - this limits its chance of spreading.

What to do during an animal disease outbreak
Notifiable Diseases - diseases you must report.

Leave it overseas

Food, plant material and animal products from overseas - including many common souvenirs – could introduce some of the world's most serious pests and diseases into Australia, devastating our valuable agriculture and tourism industries and unique environment.

Your animals

See our specific biosecurity information for:

Free Farm Biosecurity Materials

The following materials can be sent to you free of charge.  To obtain copies, please send us an email providing your name, postal address and quantities required.