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ALERT: foot and mouth disease risks for Australian farmers

Published 21 July 2022

The outbreak of animal foot and mouth disease in Indonesia in May is a high concern for the Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry as infections reportedly have spread to Bali. Foot and mouth disease (FMD) can spread through close contact between animals and be carried on animal products or by the wind.

Foot and mouth disease and lumpy skin disease (LSD) are highly transmissible viral diseases of livestock causing fever, loss of mobility, milk production and condition in adult animals, and may be fatal for young livestock. 

The Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) modelling projects a widespread FMD outbreak in Australia would have an estimated direct economic impact of around $80 billion.

Lumpy skin disease is also a serious disease of cattle and water buffalo that should be considered an emerging threat as it continues to spread through Asia.
Farmers are on high alert and should be vigilant for signs of stock infection.
 

 

First response and containment measures for foot and mouth disease

Anyone keeping or working with cattle, sheep, goats, deer, alpacas, camels or pigs should be aware of FMD symptoms

  • fever for 2-3 days 
  • blisters in and around the mouth area
  • strings of sticky saliva in cattle
  • drooling and chomping 
  • limping

and of LSD symptoms

  • discharge from the eyes and nose 
  • decreased milk yield 
  • fever 
  • skin nodules on the head, neck, limbs, udder, genitalia and perineum.

Farmers in northern Australia need to be particularly vigilant of their own livestock and be alert to observing signs in feral pigs or water buffalo. 

If any of these signs are detected the suspected FMD or LSD case must be reported urgently to a local veterinarian or the Emergency Animal Disease Watch Hotline on 1800 675 888 so that appropriate biosecurity arrangements to contain the spread of disease are instigated as quickly as possible.

Where a vet confirms a suspicion of FMD or LSD they will immediately take samples and send these to the Australian Animal Health Laboratory at Geelong for diagnosis. Diagnosis takes 24 hours. 

Meanwhile the premises will be quarantined and plans activated so response can be initiated as soon as the results are known. The primary means of controlling an outbreak is the humane destruction and bio-secure disposal of infected animals. Controlling livestock movements is also essential. Livestock farmers and handlers should be ready to immediately increase their on-farm biosecurity to restrict non-essential contact and movements.


Insurance protection and government compensation with FMD and LSD

While Gallagher has access to some insurance cover for FMD or LSD the situation may change if there’s an outbreak in Australia. 

Some of the factors for consideration in seeking insurance cover for stock include 

  • the type of operation (dairy, feedlot, breeding) 
  • biosecurity and risk mitigation measures to prevent disease spreading
  • the extent of government compensation for compulsory slaughter: value and limits
  • if the government slaughter insurance is purchased in conjunction with all-risk mortality or restricted perils cover.

Demonstrated risk management and preparedness for managing an outbreak might also include plans for restricting and monitoring the export across borders of live animals, meat and dairy products, untanned hides or skins or other animal products. Control of the environment is key to effective mitigation measures for the food and agricultural sectors. 
 

Critical support resources in the event of a foot and mouth disease outbreak

There is a range of response agencies that can assist with containing FMD or LSD infections, including health and conservation departments, local government, police, emergency services and volunteer organisations. 

Australia also has access to skilled personnel from overseas through the International Animal Health Emergency Reserve (IAHER), and specially trained Australian veterinarians through the Australian Veterinary Reserve.

Other useful resources include the Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, phone 1800 900 090. Further details about foot and mouth disease are available on the department’s website. 
 

How Gallagher can help

With expertise in food production risk and insurance our team has the knowledge to work with your business to understand, advise and develop optimal risk management strategies.

We work to explore all the options available to your business, discuss a range of pricing and funding options, and ensure that you are appropriately protected against all insurable risks.
 
 

Further reading

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Gallagher provides insurance, risk management and benefits consulting services for clients in response to both known and unknown risk exposures. When providing analysis and recommendations regarding potential insurance coverage, potential claims and/or operational strategy in response to national emergencies (including health crises), we do so from an insurance and/or risk management perspective.
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