Providing practical information to help you protect your farm from biosecurity risks

Australian Biosecurity Farmer of the Year finalists

December 22, 2010

Winner Michael BlakePutting money in your pocket

You would be hard pressed to find a sheep or cow in the country that would not trade places to live at Bally Glunin Park, near Hamilton in Victoria’s southwest. This is home to Australia’s first Biosecurity Farmer of the Year – livestock category, Michael Blake, who also took home Wool Producer of the Year at this year’s Australian Farmer of the Year Awards.
Michael and his wife Cathy run a combination of 10,000 superfine Merinos, 2,000 crossbred sheep and 140 Hereford and Limousin cattle on their 1,800-hectare property.  And this year they are set to harvest around 200 tonnes of oats as part of their pasture renovation program and another 300 tonnes of oaten hay to be used on the property for fodder over winter.

Although this might sound like a fairly typical southern Australian farming operation, what is not typical is how Michael incorporates biosecurity and quality assurance into every facet of this highly productive and reputable farming business—from his superfine Merino wool supplying the niche Italian apparel and European Eco Wool markets, to his Meat Standards Australia (MSA) quality beef destined for Europe and even his own cereal and hay crops used on-farm.

Michael developed an interest in quality assurance after a stint working in the glass manufacturing industry. When he returned home to the family farm in the early 1970s, he adopted the relevant quality assurance practices to form the basis of a farm plan that would take the business to the highest levels of productivity, biosecurity, environmental sustainability and animal welfare.

With a genuine drive for excellence, Bally Glunin Park now complies with at least 12 quality assurance programs—many which were originally piloted on the property—in efforts to guarantee each product reaches the highest and safest standards when it comes to preparation, presentation and delivery.

To ensure that Bally Glunin Park remained weed, pest and disease free well into the future, Michael started operating largely as a ‘closed farm’.  Rams and bulls are now only ever purchased from reputable breeders and are always spelled in isolation paddocks and carefully monitored for health problems before being integrated with other livestock.   He also makes sure his boundaries are well maintained and secure, and that all visitors enter the property through one controlled entry/exit point after seeking permission and having their vehicles washed at the local saleyards and inspected on entry.

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Lachlan Dobson

Blue ribbon biosecurity recognised

Lachlan Dobson, a fruit grower farming in the Ord River Irrigation Area of Kununurra, Western Australia, is the 2010 Biosecurity Farmer of the Year – plant category.

With Timor only 500 kilometres off the coast, exotic pests are an ever-present threat to Lachlan’s 120,000 mango trees and 80,000 red flesh grapefruit trees. To combat the threat he has implemented a rigorous and integrated regime that sees biosecurity paramount on his farm – Kimberly Produce.

Biosecurity can be summed up as the measures taken to exclude, manage and eradicate unwanted biological pests and diseases.

Lachlan was named Biosecurity Farmer of the Year – plant category at a gala dinner held in Sydney last September. The honour was part of Kondinin Group and ABC Rural’s Australian Farmer Year of the Awards, proudly sponsored by Plant Health Australia as part of the Farm Biosecurity initiative.

Plant Health Australia Executive Director and CEO, Greg Fraser, congratulated Lachlan on his commitment to biosecurity.

“Each day, farmers in northern Australia face the chance of pest and disease incursions. Lachlan is leading the way in demonstrating how best-practice biosecurity measures, such as undertaking regular surveillance, controlling people and product movement onto and around the property, promoting good hygiene through all parts of the farm operation, and implementing educational induction programs for staff members, can assure the long-term viability of primary production in this region.”

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Photo credit: The West Australian newspaper

Insurance for your farm and your future

Beef production is big business in Australia. With around 700 accredited feedlots now across the country, sharing an annual production value of around $2.7 billion, this growing livestock industry knows just how important biosecurity is in maintaining Australia’s world-leading reputation for clean, safe, disease-free beef. For 2010 Biosecurity Farmer of the Year finalist, Kerwee Lot Feeders, of Jondaryan in South East Queensland, biosecurity is part of their everyday thinking and is one form of insurance their business cannot ignore.

The small, family-owned grain feeding facility is licensed to run around 9,171 standard cattle units and employs 11 full time people all year round.  Specialising in the chilled, grain-fed, beef trade, Kerwee exports to around 37 countries including the United States, Japan, Korea, South East Asia, Indonesia, China, Russia and the Middle East.

Kerwee first introduced biosecurity practices to their quality assurance program around eight years ago in response to the organisation’s first expansion phase. Since then, the small business has developed a comprehensive biosecurity program to minimise the introduction of pests, weeds and disease, along with an emergency response plan designed to enable them to respond quickly and effectively in a potential biosecurity crisis.

The feedlot’s general manager, Jim Cudmore, says biosecurity is now firmly entrenched in the day-to-day management of the operation, focusing strongly on boundary security, visitor monitoring, livestock and commodity assessment and on-going training of employees, contractors and business associates.

As the feedlot is located next door to a popular Queensland tourist attraction, developing a thorough, yet manageable, process to assess the biosecurity risk of both drop-in tourists and business-related visitors was the first thing on the list.

“Because we are largely an export-focussed business, we are also very vigilant about overseas customers and visitors that view our operation firsthand. We have actually knocked back important customer groups from visiting here because they haven’t passed the Visitor Biosecurity Risk Assessment,” he said. “Recently we stopped a visit from an important delegation of Japanese customers coming here—a couple of them had come from the Miyazaki Prefecture in Japan where the foot and mouth outbreak was in April this year, so we decided to stop the whole group from visiting Kerwee.  That might seem a bit extreme, but with a disease risk like foot and mouth, it is just sensible.”

Jim says they are extremely vigilant when monitoring for weeds, pests and disease and only purchase stock and feed with the relevant vendor declaration documentation.  They also carryout sample analysis testing on feed brought on-site and conduct visual assessments of cattle on arrival and departure, as well as assessments for all machinery, vehicles and people entering the property.

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Angus Woods leads biosecurity practice

 Thinking about biosecurity in day-to-day farming operations has been vital to the success of the 12,000 hectares owned and operated by Queensland grain grower and 2010 Australian Biosecurity Farmer of the Year finalist, Angus Woods.

The on-farm biosecurity practices adopted by Mr Woods and his family provide effective models for other Australian grain growers to follow. When combined, these practices create an effective framework – one that demonstrates how farm hygiene and biosecurity measures can be implemented into daily activities of large farming enterprises without compromising efficiency.

“In our business, biosecurity activities are not a big deal, they’re just good practice. Because crops are targeted for seed and other high value markets, we recognised the importance of protecting our property from pests and diseases,” says Mr Woods.

The 2010 Australian Biosecurity Farmer of the Year Awards, proudly supported by Plant Health Australia (PHA) and Animal Health Australia (AHA) under the Farm Biosecurity initiative, promoted an up-to-the-minute, positive image of farmers while recognising producers who inspire other farmers and encourage investment in Australian agriculture.

Angus’ dedication to maintaining good biosecurity practices on-farm highlights the fact that biosecurity makes good business sense. It is hoped that other farmers will follow Angus’ lead and see the value of implementing good biosecurity practices, while finding out more about what can be done to manage pest, disease and weed threats.

Mr Woods’ company, Woods Pastoral, is the farming component of the larger, Australian agribusiness company, The Woods Group. Woods Pastoral specialises in the production of cereal and pulse crops into high value markets such as seed for sowing, containerised exports and stock feed. The main crops grown are wheat, sorghum, chickpeas and barley.

Woods Pastoral is comprised of four key farms located in the highly productive and premium grain growing region of Southern Queensland, just 45km north of Goondiwindi.

“Having a large operation spread across the four properties means we often share machinery and use quite a few different contractors when we plant and harvest the crops,” says Mr Woods.

“We recognised that the size of the enterprise could potentially threaten its biosecurity, via the contamination of seeds and the introduction of pests and diseases on equipment for example.”

In order to safeguard his properties from pests and diseases, Mr Woods developed and implemented his own biosecurity initiative – a Full Traceability and Quality Assurance (FTQA) System.

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It’s helping farmers grow

New South Wales sheep producer and 2010 Biosecurity Farmer of the Year finalist, Terry Hayes, was a pioneer of biosecurity farming practices long before he knew what the term meant.  Over the past four decades he has been heavily involved in plant and animal health measures that have helped improve the lives and businesses of many farmers and rural communities across the country.

Being a third generation farmer on his grazing property at Middle Arm, near Goulburn in the Southern Tablelands, Terry grew-up on the land understanding his father’s fights and frustrations with ongoing rabbit control. However, it was during the mid 1970s and 1980s that he was involved in his own biosecurity project to control hydatid disease—a serious condition carried by tapeworms causing cysts in the internal organs of humans, which can reduce the value of livestock. It is a preventable cycle caused by dogs eating offal from sheep and passing the tapeworm eggs on to people.

Terry says the successful program taught people to feed prepared food to their dogs, worm them regularly and to adopt good hygiene practices. It resulted in widespread behavioural change throughout the region, with hydatid disease virtually dropping off the radar in the Goulburn area.

Terry’s next, and most high-profile, contribution to biosecurity was his committed involvement with ovine Johne’s disease (OJD). After his flock tested positive for the disease in 1995, Terry became frustrated by the regulatory process and lack of information available to producers, and worked to find his own information, solutions and networks.

He became actively involved in a local producer group that enabled producers to talk openly, which he believes was “a very important part of the disease management process”. He was also a producer representative on the New South Wales OJD Advisory Committee. For a number of years Terry travelled extensively throughout New South Wales and to South Australia, talking with animal health experts about OJD and sharing his experience with other producers.  From 1998 to 2004, Terry formed an agreement with researchers from the Elizabeth Macarthur Agricultural Institute and became heavily involved with extensive trials on his property, many which can be attributed to underlying much of today’s knowledge of the disease.

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Sunshine Coast shines light on better biosecurity

Peter and Sandra Young’s holistic approach to biosecurity has rendered them champions of the Australian agricultural industry and finalists in this years inaugural Australian Biosecurity Farmer of the Year Awards.

On-farm biosecurity protects livelihoods, industries and communities. This is a major reason why it has long been at the forefront of operations at the Sunshine Coast’s Birdwood Nursery Fruit Trees.

Birdwood Nursery Fruit Trees is a production nursery situated on 60 acres in Woombye, Queensland. The nursery was initially purpose built by owners Peter and Sandra to produce avocado trees tested free from root rot disease (Phytophthora cinnamomi).

The Australian Biosecurity Farmer of the Year Awards, held last September and proudly supported by Plant Health Australia (PHA), promoted an up-to-the-minute, positive image of farmers while recognising producers who inspire other farmers and encourage investment in Australian agriculture.

Peter and Sandra’s commitment to improving biosecurity practices on their property demonstrates a significant return for their efforts and highlights the fact that biosecurity makes good business sense. Following their lead, it is hoped that others too will see the value of implementing good biosecurity practices on their properties and to find out more about what can be done to manage pest, disease and weed threats.

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