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Biosecurity reminder to horse owners

With the recent Hendra diagnosis on the North Coast, horse owners are being urged to focus on key biosecurity hazards to ensure their equine friends are kept healthy and safe, and that they don’t pose a risk to other horse owners or animal industries.  That’s the message from North Coast Local Land Services District Veterinarian, Sarah Bolton, particularly for horse owners on small acreages.

“Keeping informed about common diseases such as Hendra virus, Tetanus and Strangles as well as other well-known risks to horse health including worms and toxic weeds such as Crofton Weed and Green Cestrum will help keep you and your horses safe.

“Being mindful of biosecurity will also reduce the possibility of a problem spreading to a neighbouring paddock or to horses belonging to friends and others further afield at the next campdraft or pony club event,” Dr Bolton said.

Under the new Biosecurity Act, commenced July 2017, all stock owners have a responsibility to help protect NSW from biosecurity risks to the best of their ability. The general biosecurity duty under the Act states that anyone who knows or ought reasonably to know about a biosecurity risk has a duty to prevent, eliminate or minimise that risk as far as reasonably practicable.

Dr Bolton also advises horse owners to be aware of their legal requirements regarding Property Identification Codes (PIC) and Travelling Stock Statements.

“Any property holding stock, even if it’s just one horse, a donkey or an alpaca, must have a PIC.

“Without a PIC, horses and other stock are not legally allowed to take part in shows, exhibitions or other events and a PIC is also required when a horse is bought, sold or agisted.

“If there is a disease outbreak, a PIC is a crucial biosecurity tool as PIC records contain vital details that can help trace horse movements, contain disease spread, and inform warnings and alerts to other horse owners.” Dr Bolton said.

Owners of small acreages can apply for a PIC from any Local Land Services office or online at www.northcoast.lls.nsw.gov.au. Horse owners will also need a Transported Stock Statement (TSS) in NSW if they move a horse in a vehicle from its home location to a different property. However, a TSS is not required if a horse is being driven to or from a show, gymkhana, pony club meeting or other event, or if it is being transported for veterinary treatment. A TSS is also not required when transporting racehorses and working horses.

The TSS records stock details, ownership, the name of the carrier and the destination, and can be used to help trace stolen stock and to trace disease outbreaks. TSS forms can be purchased for $1 each (individually or in books) from any Local Land Services office. Livestock owners can be fined for failure to produce a TSS if requested by police or authorised officers.

Horse owners in northern NSW also need to be aware of their responsibilities for the management of Cattle Tick, of which horses are a potential carrier.

Horses coming from the Cattle Tick Infected Zone in Queensland, WA and NT must be inspected and treated before entering NSW. Contact the NSW DPI Cattle Tick program on 02 6626 1201 for further information.

Dr Bolton continued, “People who keep horses on a small property may not see themselves as an important player in the maintenance of Australia’s animal health and disease status.

“However, poor biosecurity can create serious risks not just for individuals but also for their families and the entire agricultural sector.

“A disease like Hendra virus that can spread from animals to humans is a prime example of a potentially deadly health risk that can be prevented through appropriate biosecurity measures such as vaccination and good hygiene.”

Diseases, insect pests, worms, and weed seeds can all be spread by horses or through dirt, manure and animal fluids on people and equipment. Clothing, boots, buckets, rugs, bridles and brushes, as well as vehicles, floats and trailers can easily spread contaminants.

Basic hygiene practices such as cleaning gear and washing down vehicles before and after attending an event can help reduce biosecurity risks.

“Responsible horse owners think about the impact their horse management will have on other people’s horses and other animals.

“However, implementing effective biosecurity measures on your own property will require knowledge and information so seek advice from your regular veterinarian.” Dr Bolton said.

The District Veterinarian team are calling on landholders not to delay reporting concerns they have regarding livestock health. In the case of dead stock the chances of determining the cause are much greater the earlier a post mortem is conducted. Experience overseas has clearly shown that the ability to quickly contain and eradicate an exotic disease is closely related to how early the disease is diagnosed.

Sarah concluded, “We are fortunate in Australia to not have many of the more devastating diseases of livestock seen around the world so early detection, should one of these diseases enter the country, is vital.”

North Coast Local Land Services district veterinarians, along with biosecurity officers, have a range of priorities when it comes to assisting landholders, including emergency disease prevention, preparedness and response. Landholders can contact their local District Veterinarian or Biosecurity Officer by contacting North Coast Local Land Services on 1300 795 299.

Media contact: Dr Sarah Bolton, District Veterinarian, Phone 6604 1104

Photo caption: All horse owners need to be aware of biosecurity risks.