Lay pregnancy testing decision opens door for diseases like African Swine Fever

The Queensland Government’s decision to support a new accreditation scheme for pregnancy testers completely ignores the important role vets play in disease surveillance and on-farm biosecurity says Dr Ian Bradshaw, president of the Australian Cattle Veterinarians (ACV).

“African swine fever is literally on Queensland’s doorstep as we speak. This threat brings into sharp focus the risks posed by reducing the number of private vets available to perform effective disease surveillance and emergency animal disease preparedness and should be of great concern to all livestock producers across Australia,” said Dr Bradshaw.

The decision will inevitably result in lay operators displacing veterinarians from some rural communities and livestock properties, greatly increasing the risk that significant disease outbreaks and exotic disease epidemics will go undiagnosed until too late.

“This can be as simple as an undiagnosed reproductive disease getting a head start on a property, causing years of unchecked reproductive losses, or can be as serious as an exotic disease such as FMD remaining undiagnosed and causing an epidemic of crippling economic impact,” said Dr Bradshaw

“With a disease like FMD, two things drive the seriousness of an outbreak, firstly how quickly it is diagnosed and livestock movement restrictions imposed, and secondly, how quickly the disease response team can mobilise a large, coordinated pool of veterinarians on the ground to perform essential diagnostic work on affected properties, disease surveillance in affected regions, and contribute to control measures such as implementing strict biosecurity practices and vaccination.”

Dr Bradshaw said the importance of supporting veterinary services in rural areas and ensuring veterinarians were available in all regions, actively involved in disease surveillance and available for an emergency animal disease could not be underestimated.

“Yet it appears this is exactly what Agforce, the Queensland cattle industry and the Queensland government have done. How is Queensland going to resource a disease outbreak with vets disappearing from the bush because of a decision they have made that reduces practice viability?”

Dr Bradshaw implores the Queensland government to be strategic and long-sighted in its approach to regulatory decisions that have the potential to severely impact Queensland producers, the vets that support them, and the Queensland economy.

“With diseases such as African Swine fever on our doorstep and with Queensland having the longest coastline with multiple unregulated pathways just a short hop and step from new Guinea and Indonesia, it is imperative that the Queensland government steps up and supports legislation that will put a firm foundation on its defences, not take them away at a critical time.”

Australian Cattle Veterinarians are a special interest group of the Australian Veterinarian Association. ACV has over 1200 members across Australia from private practice, government departments (including agriculture and quarantine services), research, and chemical companies.

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