Vetcommunique Volume 9 Issue 2

​​​​​Publication details

Animal Health Committee (AHC), March 2009




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​March 2009

Animal Health Committee 15 meeting - 2 February 2009

Welcome to the Animal Health Committee (AHC) newsletter. The aim of Vetcommuniqué is to provide a communication link between AHC and livestock industry bodies.

AHC membership comprises the Chief Veterinary Officers (CVOs) of the Commonwealth, states, and territories, and representatives from Biosecurity Australia and CSIRO. Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS), Animal Health Australia (AHA) and the New Zealand CVO attend AHC as observers. AHC also meets with industry representatives on specific items from time to time.

Dr Rob Rahaley is the South Australian Chief Veterinary Officer and AHC Chair for 2009.

AHC next meets on 11-13 May 2009 in Ballina, NSW. AHC last met by teleconference on 23 February 2009.

Outcomes from AHC15 meeting 02

Bovine Johne’s Disease

The AHC Bovine Johne’s Disease (BJD) Working Group (WG) prepared a policy paper on the future management of BJD in Australia for AHC’s consideration. AHC agreed to the proposed high level principles for the future management of BJD in Australia and for them to be considered at a forthcoming National BJD Workshop.

The high level principles proposed for the future management of BJD in Australia were:

  1. The objectives of the national BJD program are re-affirmed as:
    • Minimise contamination of farms and farm products by BJD
    • Protect non-infected herds whilst minimising disruption to trade
    • Minimise the social, economic and trade impact of BJD at herd, regional and national levels.
  2. BJD should be managed using industry-driven, assurance based approaches with minimal regulatory overlay.
  3. BJD zoning should be phased out within 12 months and replaced with an industry education program to use a property and individual animal basis for risk based trading.
  4. Surveillance should be by general surveillance of suspect clinical cases and investigation of reactors. Owners on a voluntary basis may conduct additional surveillance to support market assurance programs.
  5. Recognising that the risk of infection is highly associated with dairy cattle from south eastern Australia and that jurisdictions in consultation with the cattle industries and other jurisdictions may apply additional movement restrictions ensuring these are the minimum restrictions to reasonably manage risk.

The Working Group also provided some guidance on a national approach to cattle, goat and alpaca movements and the management of JD infected herds.

The National BJD Workshop took place on 4 March 2009 in Adelaide to discuss the future management of BJD in Australia. Outcomes of the Workshop will be presented to AHC15 in May 2009.

Definition of Bovine Tuberculosis in the Cost-sharing Deed

Bovine tuberculosis (BTB) is listed in Schedule 3 of the Emergency Animal Disease Response Agreement (EADRA) as ‘bovine tuberculosis due to Mycobacterium bovis, after Tuberculosis Freedom Assurance Program (TFAP) is completed (provided that no other program in respect of bovine tuberculosis is introduced in its place).’

The Australia BTB Surveillance Program (including TFAP) ceases on 31 December 2010. At that time, without any further detection of BTB, 10 years will have elapsed since the last case of BTB in cattle and eight years since the last case in buffalo.

AHC has agreed to the formation of a BTB/EADRA Working Group to consider the case for redefining BTB in EADRA. The working group with evaluate the performance of the Australian BTB Surveillance Program and form a view as to whether any further surveillance needs to be undertaken to achieve industry’s request to have BTB included in the EADRA unconditionally.  An interim report is expected for AHC in May 2009.

Equine Influenza (EI) Expert Panel - Development of the Equine Influenza Learnings Discussion Paper

The Primary Industries Ministerial Council (November 2008) requested the Primary Industry Standing Committee (PISC) to establish an EI Expert Panel to advise on the costs and benefits of possible strategies for managing the risks associated with a future equine influenza outbreak. The EI Expert Panel, chaired by Roger Beale AO, will review the work of AHC, consult with stakeholders and report to PISC by June 2009.

AHC14 agreed to the establishment of an Ad Hoc Group to report on learnings from the 2007 EI experience, and to highlight mechanisms by which impacts on business continuity could be reduced without compromising containment and eradication in the event of a future EI incursion.  The Group prepared a report outlining a number of strategies that might be implemented to reduce the impact of EI control on industry. These included better definition of movement controls, creations of ‘precincts’ to allow continuation of industry activities, and more strategic use of vaccination.

AHC endorsed the draft report of the Ad Hoc Group and the report is now being circulated to horse industry groups for consideration before being presented to the EI Expert Panel.

Response Preparedness Capability Enhancement Program (RPCEP)

AHC endorsed the Emergency Animal Disease (EAD) RPCEP Training Program for the period January to December 2009. The Program aims to address gaps identified in the capacity of jurisdictions to resource a First Response Team for the first week of an EAD incursion. This will initially be done by providing opportunities for all jurisdictions to enhance their EAD response capability based on the assessment of staff against units of competency as aligned with roles in AUSVETPLAN. All AUSVETPLAN roles are aligned to nationally endorsed units of competency.

AHC also endorsed funding mechanisms to support the Program.

Enzootic Bovine Leucosis

AHC endorsed Version 2.0 (February 2009) of the Enzootic Bovine Leucosis (EBL) Standard Definitions and Rules (SD&Rs). The SD&Rs have been under review by the EBL National Dairy Program Advisory Group (Chaired by Wes Judd of Queensland Dairy Organization) and the EBL Technical Working Group (Chaired by Dr Hugh Millar, Victorian Chief Veterinary Officer) since mid 2008.

Changes to the SD&Rs incorporate the agreed target outcomes for the National EBL Eradication Program to progress all dairy herds in all jurisdictions to ‘Monitored Free’ status by 1 July 2009, and for Australia’s dairy herd to be EBL Free by 31 December 2012.

Under new delegation arrangements, AHC endorsed SD&Rs are no longer required to go to the National Biosecurity Committee or the Primary Industry Standing Committee for endorsement. Hence, Version 2.0 of the EBL SD&Rs is now effective. Copies have been distributed to the dairy industry. Email AHC to request a copy.

A draft National EBL Eradication Program Business Plan incorporating the business plans from all jurisdictions (except the Northern Territory) has been noted by AHC.

Poultry Depopulation

In AUSVETPLAN (Australia’s technical response plans that describe the proposed approach to an exotic disease incursion), gassing with carbon dioxide is the only method described as suitable for destruction of large numbers of commercial poultry as part of an emergency animal disease (EAD) response. In some circumstances whole-shed gassing is feasible. In other circumstances birds must be caught and transferred to skips or bins where they are gassed, having significant labour demands and exposing workers to potential zoonotic diseases such as Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza.

The use of wet foams or ventilation shut down for emergency depopulation of poultry during an EAD response both have clear advantages for managing occupational health and safety risks and disease control risks but have potential animal welfare implications.  Wet foams cause death in poultry in less than 3 minutes by occluding the avian airway and causing rapid hypoxia.  Ventilation shutdown involves sealing a poultry shed and turning off the ventilation. This has been shown to kill birds effectively over a period of 30-60 minutes.

AHC has agreed to seek advice from the newly created Animal Welfare Committee (AWC) on the animal welfare aspects of the use foams and/or ventilation shut down for depopulation with a view to including the method in AUSVETPLAN.

AHC has also noted that this method of depopulation may not be suitable for destruction of ducks.

Last reviewed: 4 November 2019
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