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

Farm biosecurity: Commonsense and simple to establish

March 23, 2012

Sleeping-lambMy dad already does it!

By Racheal Finlayson

I have lived on and helped out around our farm my whole life. After thinking about what farm biosecurity measures are already in place on our farm I discovered how simple and necessary for good farm management they are.

My dad manages four different properties in central NSW that combine to a size of about 12,000 acres. The four properties vary in use from lucerne hay production to grazing. Our main focus is on Angus cattle breeding and selling. We also run horses and a small number of sheep. After a lifetime of carrying out jobs on the farm that are specifically for the productivity and security of the property, I recognise how commonsense most farm biosecurity measures are.

The Farm Biosecurity program outlines practices that farmers can adopt to secure their farm against threats such as diseases, pests and weeds. The recommended biosecurity practices are broken up into six management areas to help farmers identify what risks need to be managed. They are commonsense and easy to put in place, if not already in place:

The first area of the biosecurity program relates to farm input risks. Our farm has many inputs, such as newly purchased cattle and other animals, feed, seeds for crops and pastures, fertilisers and super and fuel. It is necessary to make sure that things entering our farm are disease, pest and weed free. To manage inputs, dad always requests a National Vendor Declaration (NVD) for incoming animals and assesses their health for a couple of weeks before incorporating them into the established herd.

All trucks used to transport stock, whether they are hired or our own, are checked for cleanliness before and after use. When bringing feed and seeds onto our farm we get an NVD and check labels to ensure the products are fit for purpose. Checking labels also prompts you to take note of the use-by date for feeds. There are many clean, dry, covered areas for feed storage on our farm.

In the farm output area, which relates to things going off the farm, there are a number of commonsense practices that take place on efficient farms to help a farmer uphold their

status as a good producer. Outputs for our properties include lucerne hay, beef cattle and a small number of sheep. To maintain a good reputation and efficiency, dad always ensures that our stock are fit for travel before loading and provides an NVD; the NLIS is notified of stock movements. For our paperwork he keeps a record of where cattle are sent and, where possible, asks for feedback from feedlots or abattoirs.

People, vehicles and equipment require a lot of managing to ensure farm biosecurity. There are, however, many simple steps that most farmers may already take to minimise the risk of diseases, pests and weeds from being spread by their movement. Many properties would have one main entry point, like ours, which directs traffic to one visitor car park away from livestock and crops. If it is necessary to drive around the property, our on-farm vehicles are used. Our farm equipment and vehicles are washed and kept clean, as are the clothes, boots and hands of anyone working in production areas.

The production practices risk area relates to common, everyday practices that are done to protect the farm against disease, pests and weeds. Inspecting and maintaining fences, especially boundary fences, and yards is a necessary part of dad’s tasks. Proper chemical usage requires common sense, and all chemical users on our farm have the necessary accreditation, read labels, dilute accordingly, rotate depending on active ingredient, and keep records. Keeping records on animal health activity and treatments such as drenching and vaccinating is also a common practice on our farm.

Feral animals, pests and weeds have the potential to introduce disease and limit farm production, which is why they are important biosecurity risks. The majority of farmers in Australia would be fighting a battle against feral animals, pests and weeds. Most farmers know which are present on their property and work with their neighbours to manage them. We have a weed management plan in place and talk to the DPI or agronomist if we spot anything unusual. On our farm buildings and fences are kept in good repair to deter the movement of feral animals.

Putting even more biosecurity measures in place on our farm will be a simple step towards protecting our farm, our animals and our future.

Racheal Finlayson is communications student at the University of Canberra who is currently doing work experience at Animal Health Australia.