AHC Vet Communique - November 2017

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Animal Health Committee (AHC), November 2017




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Animal Health Committee (AHC) comprises the Australian, state and territory chief veterinary officers (CVOs), the Director of the Australian Animal Health Laboratory, and the Assistant Secretary of the Animal Health Policy Branch of the Australian Government Department of Agriculture and Water Resources. AHC Observers at the November 2017 AHC meeting included representatives from Animal Health Australia (AHA) and Wildlife Health Australia (WHA).

Message from Dr Roger Paskin, CVO South Australia and AHC Chair

Welcome to the Animal Health Committee (AHC) newsletter, AHC Vetcommuniqué, which provides information on topics discussed during the recent face-to-face meeting.

Our meeting was dominated by discussions on surveillance (supported by an impressive demonstration of a database used at national level by our colleagues in the plant world), traceability, bluetongue and the proposed aquatic deed.

The discussions were open and good-natured, punctuated by opportunities to sample superb Tasmanian cuisine.

I’d like to thank all members and observers for their constructive participation and also express our collective gratitude to Rod Andrewartha for all of his work in organising a very successful meeting.

32nd AHC meeting

1-3 November, 2017, Hobart

AHC met in Hobart in November 2017, as part of its twice-yearly face-to-face discussions. These meetings provide a forum for national animal health issues to be discussed in a collegiate and collaborative environment.

Aquaculture industry

AHC rotates its twice-yearly meetings between all jurisdictions. This provides an opportunity to engage with local industry throughout Australia and gain a deeper understanding of issues unique to each jurisdiction.

AHC was hosted by oyster and salmon hatcheries during field visits prior to the formal meeting. This provided opportunities to become more familiar with the aquatic industries in Tasmania, and the biosecurity measures being implemented at the farm level.

A group visited the Shellfish Culture oyster hatchery at Pipeclay Lagoon, and gained an appreciation of the biosecurity measures instituted in response to Pacific oyster mortality syndrome (POMS). Producing oyster spat free from POMS to facilitate movements to POMS-free growing areas of the state is a priority.

The TASSAL Rookwood salmon hatchery was also visited, where biosecurity measures are critical to supporting the sustainability of the hatchery in growing salmon smolt for supply to all salmon growing areas in the state.

The visits highlighted the importance of biosecurity and the challenges faced by the aquatic industries. The facilities’ appreciation of the significance of biosecurity measures to their operations, and their proactive engagement was widely commended.

32nd AHC Face-to-Face Meeting

Key Items Discussed

Reflecting AHC’s continuing priorities, and its recognition of their national significance, animal health surveillance and animal traceability were a focus of the 32nd AHC meeting.


AHC continues to recognise the collective importance of strong animal health surveillance systems. Engagement and collaboration between governments, and with industry and other stakeholders is critical – with there being shared responsibility for Australia’s animal health systems as well as shared benefits. AHC committed to moving forward with developing a nationally harmonised surveillance approach.

AHC discussed past and current activities relating to animal health surveillance. Progress on activities under the National Animal Health Surveillance and Diagnostics Business Plan was noted. An update was also provided on animal health activities that have been funded under the Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper. This included preliminary findings from a business case being developed for national sharing of animal health surveillance data.

Dr Nick Woods, Plant Health Australia (PHA), provided a demonstration of AUSPestCheck. This is an innovative platform, developed by PHA with financial assistance from the Australian Government, to collect, analyse and display plant surveillance data. AHC noted the value of this platform as a key supporting tool, and thanks PHA for the presentation. 

AHC agreed to further consider potential capabilities under the National Animal Health Information System, to which it remains committed in the meanwhile, while also exploring other possibilities to ensure the most appropriate functions are available to the animal sector.

As a standing agenda item, each jurisdiction also provided updates about key surveillance activities and cases since the last AHC meeting. This supports national consistency and the identification of trends, as well as facilitating collaboration and the sharing of experiences and expertise.

Traceability and export certification

AHC engaged in discussions on improving the veracity of export certification, noting the need for harmonisation and effective controls. Industry engagement was identified as a key element of this.

AHC is committed to working to improve the integrity of Australia’s livestock traceability systems.

Other key agenda items included:

Antimicrobial resistance

AHC recognised the global threat presented by antimicrobial resistance (AMR) and positive work being undertaken within the animal sector in Australia to ensure the responsible use of antimicrobials. The need for ongoing work and a coordinated approach to ensure the Australian animal sector remains a leader in managing risks of AMR was agreed.

Performance of Veterinary Services

Following the 2015 evaluation of the Performance of Veterinary Services (PVS evaluation) of Australia by the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), individual evaluations of states and territories are being performed. These evaluations are due to be completed by the end of 2018, with a summary of completed, current and anticipated activities under this program of work discussed by AHC.

Progress updates

Updates on other key work being undertaken by AHC were provided. This includes the biennial review of the national list of notifiable animal disease list; an evaluation of animal health and biosecurity issues relating to insect protein production for livestock; and discussions about governance for the import and management of exotic disease agents in laboratories.

AHC noted the Sub-committee on Aquatic Animal Health annual report.

An update was provided on progress in developing a cost sharing deed for aquatic emergency animal disease responses. Reports were also provided to AHC by Animal Health Australia and Wildlife Health Australia on their activities.

Industry Session

A joint AHC‑industry session was attended by Tasmanian industry representatives from the Tasmanian Farmers & Graziers Association, Tassal Operations and Shellfish Culture and AHA Industry Forum executives, representing national industry associations. This included the Australian Alpaca Association, Australian Pork Limited, Australian Dairy Farmers, Dairy Australia and LiveCorp.

Issues discussed included:

  • biosecurity programs for the alpaca industry
  • antimicrobial stewardship activities in the pig industry
  • bluetongue virus
  • animal welfare standards
  • assurance systems for Johne’s disease in beef and dairy cattle
AHC and industry participants noted the importance of collaboration. AHC looks forward to continued work with industry on key items of relevance.

Next Meeting

The next AHC meeting will be held in Canberra during April, 


Please contact your AHC representative if you have agenda items that you would like considered for this meeting.

Thank you for your continued support of our animal industries.

AHC members and observers with industry participants

AHC members and observers with industry participants

Key AHC Contacts

Dr Mark Schipp, Australian CVO
02 6272 4644

Dr Wendy Townsend, ACT CVO
02 6205 3737

Dr Christine Middlemiss, NSW CVO
02 6391 3577

Dr Kevin de Witte, NT CVO
08 8999 2130

Dr Allison Crook, Queensland CVO
07 3087 8014

Dr Roger Paskin, (AHC Chair) SA CVO
08 8207 7970

Dr Rod Andrewartha, Tasmanian CVO
03 6165 3261

Dr Charles Milne, Victorian CVO
03 9217 4114

Dr Jamie Finkelstein, Acting WA CVO
08 9368 3805

Dr Kurt Zuelke, Director, Australian Animal Health Laboratory
03 5227 5511

Dr Robyn Martin, Deputy Australian CVO
02 6272 5364

Dr Peter Dagg (Observer)
Animal Health Australia
02 6203 3907

Dr Rupert Woods (Observer)
Wildlife Health Australia

02 9960 6333

Animal Health Committee
Email: AHC
Website: AHC
GPO Box 858, Canberra ACT 2601

Last reviewed: 4 November 2019
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