The exceptionally wet summer affecting the entire eastern half of Australia means that many farmers are going into this winter with fuller than usual water storages, raised groundwater water levels and increased soil moisture. A traditionally wet winter could bring a greater than usual level of biosecurity risk to producers across southern Australia.
Some bacteria, such as Yersinia pseudotuberculosis, the cause of flood mud scours, thrive in wet cold conditions. Cattle struck by Yersiniosis develop an infection in the intestine which can cause profuse diarrhoea and rapid death.
It is easy to assume the cold kills off most bugs, but it is important to continue standard biosecurity procedures, such as quarantining stock from flood-affected areas, to catch those bacteria that never sleep.
Some animals tolerate the cold better than others, but many will huddle together for warmth, increasing the chance of lice and other parasites jumping ship. It is a good idea to inspect livestock more often, ensure they have access to nutritious feed and are kept in good health, thus raising their ability to withstand winter diseases.
Water flows often bring with them winter weed seeds. Weed seeds can be carried on or inside animals, to be deposited later elsewhere, harming grain and pasture production and deteriorating the quality of harvested products. For this reason, it important to maintain strict quarantine and inspection controls on all new livestock entering a property. Isolating new livestock for about ten days, and inspecting both the animals and their faeces, will help prevent the potential spread of disease to existing stock.
With good pasture available in many areas of Australia, the need for supplementary winter feed may be lower this year. However those producers intending to purchase feed should remain on guard for weed seeds, pest infestations, chemical residues, moisture, mould and physical contaminants. Please remember that feeding Restricted Animal Material (RAM) to ruminants is illegal in Australia as it is linked to the spread of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE or Mad Cow disease). Swill feeding of pigs is also illegal in Australia. This is a dangerous practice which has led to the spread of diseases such as foot and mouth disease in many countries.
Feed and fodder vendor declarations are available from the MLA website.