Cattle that contract Lumpy Skin Disease develop multiple nodules – lumpy skin – with the affected animals often suffering permanent damage to their hides, reduced milk production, poor growth and premature deaths.
Lucky for Orange’s beef farmers the infectious disease had never reached our paddocks … until it did – fictitiously – this week.
The Department of Primary Industries became the control room for a training team tasked with combating a hypothetical cross-border outbreak of the disease.
Operation Border Bridge involved 100 agriculture experts in Orange working with their peers in Brisbane and Toowoomba to iron out the action plan should such an incident occur.
Deputy Director of General Biosecurity and Food Safety Bruce Christie said the likelihood of bringing a disease like Lumpy Skin into Australia is quite high.
“Things inadvertently get through quarantine all the time,” Mr Christie said.
“We have a lot of preventative procedures in place but the increasing movement of people around the world means the threat is ever increasing.”
Mr Christie said detailed plans exist for combating various outbreaks and the training simulation gave the teams an opportunity to discover the plausibility of such contingencies.
“Realising how time differences across states, different IT systems between Toowoomba and Orange and changes to state legislation may bring unexpected complications is essential to ensure all parties involved are playing by the same rules,” Mr Christie said.
The group was in town for three days, practicing each part of the plan, from disease detection to eradication.
Mr Christie said Lumpy Skin could have important economic implications for Australia and our trading partners expect all precautions to be taken against a threat.
“For the public the message is that if anyone sees something, we want to know about it,” he said.
“Keep their eyes and ears open. If anything happens to get in to Australia we want to find it and get rid of it early.”