Northern Victorian dairy farmers Andrew and Christine Sebire have safeguarded the health and welfare of their closed herd by creating a tailored biosecurity plan for their farm.
The Echuca, Vic, farmers have used a Livestock Production Assurance (LPA) template to create their biosecurity plan, which has enabled them to identify gaps in their processes and reaffirmed systems already in place.
The Sebires, who milk 530 Holsteins in a split-calving pattern, have been farming for more than 30 years.
"Diseases can impact your entire herd," Mrs Sebire said.
"We want to make sure we're not contributing to the spread of any diseases and that we are not spreading runoff or other nutrients to the larger ecosystem."
After experiencing an outbreak of salmonella while working on a previous farm, Mr Sebire developed a firsthand understanding of the long-term impact of disease on herd health and production.
Since identifying biosecurity as a priority for their farm, Mrs Sebire has undertaken formal biosecurity training and taken advantage of freely available biosecurity planning tools.
With a closed herd, the Sebires tailored their biosecurity plan to their system and put protocols in place to ensure contaminants from the dairy and dairy herd cannot impact calves and young stock.
When selling stock, the Sebires follow recommended protocols and keep strict records of stock treatments.
In keeping with regulations, Mr and Mrs Sebire ensure vendor declarations are provided when buying feed to prevent any contamination and to enable tracking in case of any infection or contamination.
"Having a new tool tailored to the dairy industry will be very pertinent and helpful as it will be more applicable to our farm situation," Mrs Sebire said.
"Biosecurity planning tools are so user-friendly, and they allow you to look at your operation and pinpoint the gaps that you can work on.
"While not everything in a biosecurity framework will be relevant for you, there will still be key things you can take out."
Rochester, Vic, vet Mitch Crawford agrees, acknowledging that a tailored biosecurity plan is essential to address the unique risks on every farm.
Having been based at Rochester Vets for almost 20 years and worked with dairy farmers every day, Mr Crawford said he believed every farm presented a different picture.
"Farmers need to really take ownership of their own biosecurity," he said.
"Some risks may not be applicable for your farm and you can't put every farmer in the same pigeonhole, so a tailored plan that allows farmers to work out their own risks is very important."
Online tool to manage biosecurity risks
Dairy farmers can access an online tool to help inform their management approach to biosecurity risks.
Developed as part of an industry collaboration between Dairy Australia and Agriculture Victoria, the biosecurity tool, released last year, enables dairy farmers to create a biosecurity plan tailored to their farm, based on Dairy Australia's Healthy Farms Biosecurity Framework.
Dairy Australia technical and innovation manager Dr John Penry said it was important for all farms to have a biosecurity plan to manage disease risk.
"It's crucial for dairy farmers to maintain a biosecurity plan tailored to their herd and farming system," Dr Penry said.
"An outbreak of the diseases identified by the biosecurity tool could create significant and measurable losses in farm performance.
"The biosecurity tool allows dairy farmers to manage their risks around 14 separate diseases such as salmonella and BVD (Bovine Viral Diarrhea).
"For each disease, dairy farmers can identify control measures under the seven categories of stock movements, herd health, farm inputs, visitors, effluent and waste, neighbours and dead animals."
Agriculture Victoria development specialist Dr Sarah Chaplin said the new online tool would help farmers understand how to manage their own biosecurity risks.
"The control measures offered by the tool for each disease are evidence-based, based on the level of risk that you have chosen," Dr Chaplin said.
"Users decide what level of control they want to apply to different diseases with the tool's risk matrix.
"It's still subjective - it's up to the farmer to decide whether they consider the consequences minor, moderate or severe.
"Once the farm's specific animal health risks are identified, scientifically valid control measures are suggested."
Focused control measures have a better cost:benefit ratio than blanket application of all possible control measures.
Dairy farmers can access the biosecurity tool at biosecurity.dairyaustralia.com.au and farmers already using DairyBase can use their existing login details.
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