Victoria could be a "perfect storm" of an emergency animal outbreak if foot and mouth (FMD) disease arrives in the country.
During a webinar hosted by the Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF), Agriculture Victoria's principal veterinary officer - emergency animal disease Dr Megan Scott said Victoria is very susceptible to FMD, and authorities will implement a livestock standstill in the first 72 hours of an outbreak.
It will mean saleyards will have to implement plans where livestock can't move from pens.
"We've got this dense livestock population where a lot of different farms are in close proximity to each other, and a lot of those farms ... and localities have mixed breeds as well," Dr Scott said during her presentation in the webinar.
"And you can also look at pigs, sheeps, goats, they are all susceptible to FMD," she said.
She said Agriculture Victoria is currently working with saleyards to put in place standstill plans and that they would play a critical role.
"Livestock will remain at the site initially but any visitors to the saleyard will be permitted to move off, notwithstanding that there will be some deep cleaning," she said.
She also said Agriculture Victoria is working with transporters to in the event of a standstill.
Any trucks or utes with livestock will either head to their destination or return to where they came back from, dependent on animal welfare considerations or state border restrictions.
No other new movements of livestock would be allowed.
Dr Scott said livestock could survive weeks with FMD, and recording traceability would be hugely crucial via Victoria's electronic ID systems.
"Hang in there as you are standing in your paddocks or your yards tagging all those sheep or cattle in the rain or cold in the winter - please keep doing it as it's a critical part of that traceability which is important for emergency responses," she said.
The NSW government is also backing industry calls for the development of a national mandatory sheep and goat electronic identification system, much like Victoria's system.
Victorian livestock is highly reliant on export markets, with figures showing 70 per cent of sold livestock exported, while the state also represents 27pc of total Australian food and fibre export value.
The chief executive of Ceres Tag - an automated sickness detection contact tracing platform - David Smith told Stock & Land that traceability automation could help identify biosecurity incursions.
Mr Smith said tags would not identify whether an animal has FMD or any other disease, but farmers should utilise available technology to assist when disease threats are present.
"We've got the only technology in the world that can do the unlimited range real time automated sickness detection and contact tracing," he said.
The automated tag that Mr Smith's company developed is a machine learning node placed on the ear of the animal.
It was developed in collaboration with CSIRO, who had been working on the technology a decade before Ceres Tag came along to help commercialise it.
Mr Smith said there was a genuine concern over the number of veterinarians who can assist farmers if an outbreak occurs, but there was no barrier for farmers to start tagging.
He said that action could identify specific movements livestock make on paddocks, which can help farmers decide whether to take urgent action.
"It's no different to humans, in that if you're feeling ill, you don't move like you would," he said.
"If you were feeling well or in the case of some illnesses, you might even move erratically, or in the case of death, there's no activity, and we send alerts for those changes.
Mr Smith said that while RFID tags did a great job being an identifier of cattle, there was a reliance on humans to record them and said more investment was needed for automated tracing systems.
"We do need more funding to commercialise this research and helping farmers and veterinarians in situations like this," he said.
Livestock owners can also use the National Livestock Identification System for the identification and traceability of cattle, sheep and goats.
During the webinar VFF president Emma Germano said Victorian farmers should check with insurers now if they could cover any losses regarding FMD.
"You should check with your own insurer about your own personal policy, but it looks very unlikely that insurance wouldn't cover it because it's an act of God and I tell you what, the way that we're feeling about biosecurity right now feels like a plague on all of our houses," she said.
She said calling for travel bans to Indonesia, where FMD has been detected earlier this year, would risk trade relationships, but the VFF will advocate for more measures to boost biosecurity in the coming weeks, including a standstill on camping on farming properties.
Federal Agricultural Minister Murray Watt announced earlier this month $14 million of funding would go preventing the spread of FMD and lumpy skin disease in Indonesia, Timor-Leste, Papua New Guinea and Australia.
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