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Australia rolls out sheep health monitoring programme

Post a commentBy Aidan Fortune , 15-Aug-2017

A $3 million investment is being made in sheep health in Australia
A $3 million investment is being made in sheep health in Australia

Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) has announced a $3 million (m) investment in the health of its sheep flock. 

The ‘Reducing the Financial Impact of Endemic Conditions in Sheep’ project will run for three years in southern Australia (SA) and, during this time, 21 sheep health issues will be recorded and communicated to producers, including key conditions such as grass seeds, pneumonia, sheep measles, rib fractures and arthritis.

Aside from reducing the incidence of endemic sheep diseases in SA, the project will also improve collaboration in the region’s sheepmeat supply chain, provide consistent animal monitoring at processing, give producers access to timely carcase condition data and increase whole industry awareness of the importance of animal health.

MLA managing director Richard Norton unveiled the project. “Data generated at the Bordertown, Murray Bridge and Lobethal facilities will be fed back to producers,” Norton said. “This feedback will be supported with information about how to address and manage conditions on-farm that are critical to help reduce the prevalence and costs of managing endemic conditions found in sheep in south Australia.”

Norton said the project would be Australia’s biggest state-level sheep monitoring program, would cover more than 80% of sheep slaughtered in south Australia and that the learnings would be available to the rest of the industry.

We estimate that collecting highly valuable sheep health data manually for this project will cost less than 10 cents per head,” he said. “An important outcome from this project will be a business case for continued investment from across the sheepmeat supply chain in collection of animal health data.

“Supply chain stakeholders are more likely to adopt new data collection technologies if these are cost-effective and efficient.”

The project is being delivered by MLA Donor Company (MDC) and SA Sheep Industry Fund (SIF) and hopes to build on the success of the Enhanced Abattoir Surveillance program that has been operating in south Australia for 10 years. The collaboration has been facilitated by the SA Sheep Industry Blueprint.

The project will be rolled out in collaboration with Thomas Foods International (TFI), JBS Australia (JBS), Primary Industries and Regions SA – Biosecurity SA, the Davies Research Centre at the University of Adelaide and several SA farming systems groups. Animal Health Australia is also supporting the project.

SA Sheep Advisory Group chair Leonie Mills said health issues cost Australian producers about $140m each year in lost production

“We aim to reduce these costs by improving the flow of animal health information to sheep producers and equip them with knowledge and skills to implement cost-effective interventions that can be readily applied on-farm,” she said. “A PhD student will investigate the epidemiology of certain key diseases with the aim to highlight the causes and, if possible, the on-farm predisposing factors.”

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