A specialised training program involving Western Australian veterinarians is helping build the State’s capacity to respond to emergency animal diseases such as foot-and-mouth disease (FMD).
Veterinary officers from the Department of Agriculture and Food have taken part in a real-time training program run by EuFMD – a regional body of the European Commission for the Control of FMD.
Department veterinary officers Kevin Hepworth, stationed in Geraldton, Rod Thompson (Moora), Ashley Jordan (Northam), Tom De Ridder (Broome) and Bruce Twentyman (South Perth) recently completed the training in Nepal, a country where outbreaks of FMD are a regular problem.
“Emergency animal disease surveillance and preparedness are the cornerstones to early detection of a disease, protecting market access and keeping farmers in business,” Dr Twentyman said.
“Through this training, regional DAFWA veterinarians now have direct experience in recognising FMD lesions and WA farmers can be confident that contacting the department early in any suspect cases will lead to the best outcomes for exclusion, containment, control and eradication of disease.”
Australia has been free of FMD for more than 140 years. A recent report by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences puts the cost of a large FMD outbreak in Australia at more than $50 billion over 10 years.
Dr Twentyman stressed that early detection was the key to minimising the economic impact of FMD in Australia and was the best way to get WA farmers back to being productive and profitable in the shortest possible timeframe.
“Boosting biosecurity and surveillance throughout the state and locally ‘on-farm’ is a priority for DAFWA and having skilled and highly trained veterinarians throughout the regions will ensure we meet this commitment,” he said.
Dr De Ridder said to actually see real life FMD lesions in cattle and goats, to then take samples in the field and send them for laboratory testing was an invaluable experience for Australian veterinarians.
“There is tremendous variation in the appearance of FMD lesions between species such as cattle, sheep, pigs and goats,” Dr De Ridder said.
“Lesions on the feet of sheep and goats can be very hard to detect and possibly easily overlooked.
“To see early lesions in goats on this trip was a fantastic opportunity and the knowledge gained can be passed on to government and private veterinarians, livestock producers and other industry stakeholders.”
The five-day EuFMD program in Nepal was jointly funded by the European Commission, DAFWA and the Australian Government Department of Agriculture.
Jodie Thomson/Dionne Tindale, media liaison +61 (0)8 9368 3937
Dr Bruce Twentyman, veterinary officer (South Perth) +61 (0) 427 712 922
Dr De Ridder, veterinary officer (Broome) +61 (0)8 91941420