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Other Husbandry

Australia's relative isolation provides a welcome buffer to many of the global diseases affecting sheep.

Disease and infestation can have serious negative impacts on the welfare of sheep, reducing productivity and increasing the cost of production for sheep enterprises.

AWI invests in these areas to improve sheep animal health and welfare outcomes, and increase on farm productivity, profit and sustainability.

Exotic disease

Australia is fortunate to be free of many livestock diseases that cause significant losses in other countries, e.g., foot-and-mouth and mad cow disease.

AWI helps to ensure that Australia has effective plans and tools in place to deal with disease outbreaks.

The Australian emergency animal disease response set out in AUSVETPLAN is maintained by Animal Health Australia. AUSVETPLAN is a series of technical response plans that describe Australia's approach to an exotic disease.

 
Sheep hoof affected by footrot.

The Federation of Australian Wool Organisations (FAWO) with the assistance of AWI has developed a three-year Australian wool industry Emergency Animal Disease (EAD) preparedness research, development and extension (RD&E) strategy for 2016/17-2018/19. This strategy is an update of the first such plan, which spanned the preceding three-year period. The Plan aims to minimise disruption to flows of Australian wool to the world’s markets, should an EAD outbreak occur.

Footrot

Footrot is a bacterial disease of the feet of sheep with significant welfare and economic impacts. While the number of flocks with virulent (severe) strains of footrot has been reduced considerably over the last 20 years, footrot remains a serious disease.

Virulent footrot can be eradicated from flocks but at considerable expense. Success is often season-dependent as wet, warm conditions favour footrot.

Less virulent strains can cause considerable lameness and production loss but may not be eradicable.

Farmer Footrot Tool (Exclel 236Kb) is available which helps enable footrot-affected producers to understand the financial cost of the disease on their farm and to evaluate the cost effectiveness of different strategies to control or eradicate the disease.

A Footrot ute guide to identification and control in the field is available on the Sheep Connect Tasmania website. The ute guide – which has been developed by Sheep Connect Tasmania as part of a collaborative project with DPIPWE, funded by AWI – outlines the disease’s cause, symptoms, treatment, management and eradication options. It also features stories from two Tasmanian producers who have overcome the challenges of footrot using slightly different approaches.

An AWI funded project at the University of New England developed a DNA-based test that distinguishes virulent and non-virulent strains. The test discriminates between strains that are classed as "stable" from the gelatin gel test but behave as either virulent or non-virulent in the field. The test is accredited for use in NSW.

AWI and the University of Sydney jointly funded a project to design effective vaccines that can eradicate specific, individual strains of virulent footrot diagnosed on individual properties. Read more in the Eradicating virulent footrot using specific vaccines factsheet (355KB).

Better diagnosis and control of footrot should result in:

  • Healthier, more productive sheep.
  • Easier trading between flocks.
  • Lower treatment and labour costs.
  • Increased confidence in State-based control programs.

For more footrot advice, woolgrowers are advised to visit the following websites:

Ovine Johne's disease (OJD)

Johne's disease is a serious wasting disease that affects a wide range of animals. In Australia it has been found in sheep, cattle, goats, deer, and camelids. It is caused by bacteria (Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis) that live mainly in animal intestines but can also survive in the outside environment for several months.

The sheep strain of the bacteria is called ovine Johne's disease (OJD).

Johne's disease causes a thickening of the intestinal wall which blocks the normal absorption of food. An infected animal is hungry and eats but cannot absorb any nutrients. This results in wasting and finally death.

Australia is in the fortunate position of having relatively little Johne's disease compared to most developed agricultural countries.

In response to growing woolgrower concerns about planned changes to the OJD Management Plan, AWI conducted an independently-chaired OJD Information Forum on 15 November 2012.

The forum aimed to clarify implications and facilitate discussion between researchers, policy makers, livestock producers and industry service providers.

AWI is considering new investments in ovine Johne's disease resulting from the 2012 OJD Information Forum.

Scouring

Scouring is caused by gastro intestinal worms, bacteria such as Salmonella, Yersinia and Campylobacter and protozoa such as Giardia and Cryptosporidium.

AWI, MLA and Murdoch University are jointly funding a project to assess the significance of interactions between these infectious agents. The project will develop management recommendations to reduce the impact of scouring on production then incorporate these recommendations into WormBoss.

A DNA based test using Polymerase Chain Reaction for multiple infections at one time was successfully developed for research purposes.

Further Information

OJD Information Forum - click the links to read or download forum presentations:

Animal Health Australia - click the links to download or read information on the AHA website:

Meat & Livestock Australia - click the link to download or read information on the MLA website: