Although Australia is currently free from foot and mouth disease (FMD), it is considered one of the country’s greatest biosecurity risks and an incursion would have significant consequences for animal health and trade.

In 2022, FMD was detected in Indonesia and the disease was declared endemic in 2023, which indicates a long-term effort to prevent a devastating incursion from our closest neighbour. FMD does not directly impact plant industries but it can potentially stop Australian exports of animals, hay, and prevent the movement of livestock and agricultural products from farms. According to ABARES’ Financial performance of cropping farms 2022-23 report, 7,900 out of 16,200 plant industry farms in Australia, are mixed operations.

“All agricultural industries are connected, and it is likely that growers and mixed farming operations will feel the impact of FMD if a disruption occurs in one of the agricultural industries,” said Sarah Corcoran, CEO of Plant Health Australia (PHA).

FMD is highly contagious. The disease is carried by live animals and in meat and dairy products as well as soil, bones, untreated hides, vehicles and equipment. The virus can also be carried on clothing and footwear. The virus is present in large amounts in the blisters, saliva, urine, manure, milk and breath of infected animals. It spreads rapidly between animals and can be contagious for up to four days before clinical signs appear.

PHA has developed a FMD quick guide to help plant industries and mixed farming operations to prepare for animal and plant pest and disease outbreaks and identify business opportunities that could arise. The framework is based on the AFITE (Assess, Find, Identify, Thresholds, Enact) model.

“It is based on the same effective approach taken for fall armyworm, Russian wheat aphid, and serpentine leaf miner in previous outbreaks,” said Stuart Kearns, PHA’s National Manager: Preparedness and R&D.

At the time of the Indonesian detection and in preparation of a possible FMD outbreak, PHA hosted a FMD webinar for mixed producers. Listen to the webinar here.