Stakeholders at the Roma Saleyards put their emergency national stock standstill procedures to the test recently during a simulated outbreak of foot and mouth disease.
A stock standstill might be declared by governments to help limit the spread of highly contagious diseases in the event of an outbreak.
The activation of a national standstill would likely see saleyards across the country become vital holding centres while authorities conduct disease surveillance and tracing exercises to determine the movements of infected animals.
Issues around stock standstills generated plenty of discussion at the National Saleyards Expo where Animal Health Australia biosecurity and extension manager Rachael O'Brien spoke about the pilot undertaken in Roma last month.
Ms O'Brien said most selling centres would be required to play a vital role should a standstill be enacted.
She said a standstill would initially last 72 hours and saleyards may not only be called upon to help contain stock in transit, but also assist in detecting disease.
"You have the capacity to hold livestock," she told saleyard operators at the conference.
"You might not be to full capacity on the day so you then become a potential resource which is something that is a bit scary if you don't have a plan in place to manage that imposition on yourself.
"You are also very critical to disease containment. You guys are looking at livestock all the time so in terms of raising that alarm straight away there is a real likelihood that someone from the saleyards would see that before anyone else.
"If you are able to identify sick livestock and stop those livestock leaving a facility you are critical in making sure disease does not spread to another state or area."
Ms O'Brien said the Roma Saleyards had developed a dedicated Biosecurity Plan - a step she'd like to see all saleyards adopt.
"The standstill documents that ALMA has produced have been out for a while and they have a place but what we have been working with ALMA on is an overarching Biosecurity Plan," she said.
Ms O'Brien said it was important that saleyard operators created a plan for a stock standstill without the stress of actually being in the middle of an outbreak.
"They will have done that hard work while they are thinking straight so that it is not a scramble when they need it most."
Ms O'Brien said any saleyards operators that did not have a biosecurity plan in place could reach out to Animal Health Australia for assistance.
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