Opinion: Leave your Boots at Home to avoid Foot and Mouth

By: Trevor Whittington

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WAFarmers CEO Trevor Whittington says there's more everyone can do to better take biosecurity issues seriously in light of recent concerns about Foot and Mouth disease

Opinion: Leave your Boots at Home to avoid Foot and Mouth
For the sake of Aussie Farmers, please leave your muddy boots at home.

 

Despite all the media coverage and political furore around Foot and Mouth disease it’s clear that neither our politicians, the community and some farmers have quite worked out what an incursion would mean for Australia or what they can do to lower the risk. 

Within hours of the announcement of a detection Australia’s 50,000 livestock producers and 250,000 hobby farmers will be in a stock standstill for 72 hours.

By the end of the day all stocks of meat, milk and dairy products on supermarket shelves will disappear as consumers rush to stock up.

Even the soy water and lentil burgers will disappear, along with all the long-life milk, baby milk powder, chicken, frozen fish, in fact anything protein that people could lay their hands on.

For those who have a cunning plan to just eat out if there is nothing to buy in the shops, then good luck with that, McDonalds and others don’t carry much in the way of stock so they too will be out of Big Macs and sundaes within a day or two. 

For those that think fish and chips is a fall back option, then just remember it’s a desert in the middle of Australia and it’s a desert in our coastal waters. 

Chicken and eggs are an option assuming the feed trucks are allowed on farm, but any disruption will be seen in the supermarket shelves. 

For those in the city who plan to take the family off to the cousin’s farm and camp with them for a few days until this all blows over, not a chance. 

Road blocks will be set up to reinforce regional movement controls, added to the fact that the farm relatives won’t want the city cousins anywhere near the property with the risk of them bringing the virus. 

No doubt the full reality of the situation will start to sink in when each of the State Governments use their State of Emergency powers to prioritise food for the hospitals and army trucks are seen heading bush to start the process of destroying and burying tens of thousands of sheep and cattle. 

Those who work fly-in, fly-out face being stood down as the camps won’t be able to get enough food for the mess and the unions won’t accept only serving up vegan meals. Even through that’s all people will be eating at home.

And even then, there will likely be shortages of fresh vegetables as any outbreak centred in Australia’s high rainfall dairy and horticultural sectors will result in bans on the movement of farm machinery down roads and trucks onto properties.

The modelling says we will clean up a small outbreak in 3-4 months and a big one in 12, with the key being the speed of identification, track and trace and just how good we all are in our own on farm biosecurity.

But how many farmers have actively opposed electronic ear tags in their sheep based on the cost, even though its recognised as a useful addition to stock movement tracking?

On that point I went to a big meeting the other day on FMG with some farmers demanding that the government ban all incoming flights from Bali or all passengers shoes be thrown in the bin.

Now aside from embarrassing our neighbour who is also our biggest grains and live cattle export market, this idea just looks stupid as we are not also calling for bans on flights from Jakarta, Malaysia, Africa, India etc where FMD is also rampant.

We would look like hypocrites as most farmers’ idea of biosecurity is at best a sign on the front gate.  How many have installed a drive-through tyre disinfectant pond on the driveway or never take the work boots past the front gate?

How many give a second thought to the merits of having livestock at field days or attending the local sale yards when they don’t need to be there. These are all high-risk biosecurity potential super spreaders.

Before we demand government do more and city folk be banned from going to Bali, we better make sure we are all taking biosecurity seriously. A good place to start is with your boots.

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