Australia Invests in FMD Preparedness Program

Australia’s livestock industries and the Australian government are investing in a new five-year, $5 million research program to address vulnerabilities in Australia’s readiness to control foot and mouth disease (FMD).

The beef and dairy cattle, sheep, goat, and pig industries and Meat and Livestock Australia’s (MLA’s) donor company are investing $2 million in funding over the first two years of the program that will be managed by Animal Health Australia. The research will be carried out by Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Research Organization scientists from the Australian Animal Health Laboratory (AAHL). The new program will better prepare the Australian industry to respond effectively to an outbreak of FMD and thereby minimize disruptions to trade and impacts on the community.

“Markets around the world have stringent and unwavering laws on their food imports and in the event of Australia contracting FMD, we would be locked out of all trade with our customers,” said MLA’s Managing Director David Palmer. “Economic losses would be devastating – in the order of $4 million a day according to estimates by the Australian Productivity Commission.

“In addition, community concerns will demand better use of technology to minimize any livestock destruction as the main source of control in such an event,” Palmer continued. “Vaccines, animal traceability, improved modeling, and the use of sophisticated diagnostics underpin an effective and efficient response to FMD. This project will deliver the necessary science on vaccination as a preferable FMD control strategy, and develop the necessary protocols.” 

Australia’s government and livestock industries made a significant investment in an FMD vaccine bank five years ago, which provides Australia with guaranteed access to vaccine. This has been recently renewed for another five years. Although this provides Australia with assurance of accessibility, there are many unknowns in the application of vaccine to Australian livestock in Australian conditions.

During the five-year program, AAHL will conduct research into the application of FMD vaccines in Australian livestock. Much of the work will be carried out collaboratively with overseas countries including South Africa, Argentina, Vietnam, and South East Asia as the live FMD virus that is required for this work will not be imported into Australia.

June 2010 RENDER | back