Biosecurity alert – ryegrass staggers about this year

CRyegrass staggers is on the rise according to the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment (DPIPWE).

Feedback from DPIPWE field staff and producers is indicating that ryegrass staggers may be occurring more this year than normal, exacerbated by current seasonal conditions.

Perennial ryegrass toxicoses, or ryegrass staggers, can be a serious and widespread problem and is caused by toxins that accumulate in the leaf sheaths of perennial ryegrass. The accumulated toxins peak in summer and autumn. 

The species at risk are mainly cattle and sheep, but alpacas, deer and horses are also susceptible. 

Obvious signs from affected livestock includes staggering, excitable behaviour and over-alertness. In severe cases, animals collapse, convulse or die without any apparent early warning signs.

In horses, the staggers can quickly develop into stiffness in the hind legs resulting in difficulty in getting up or lying down.


DPIPWE advice for ryegrass staggers

Identifying ryegrass staggers

The observable signs of ryegrass staggers typically become visible 7 to 14 days after the stock start grazing the toxic plants. Animals that are not severely affected usually recover a few days after being removed from the toxic pasture. Any livestock that are no longer able to get around will need to be nursed back to health – or, in extreme cases, humanely destroyed.

If you see the signs of ryegrass staggers in your livestock, you should move your animals to a safe paddock promptly.   If you are unsure whether another paddock is safe, you should provide extra feed to help buffer the risk of toxins.  Hay is much better than silage because the toxin levels can remain high for prolonged periods in silage, whereas in hay the toxins seem to decline significantly over the months after it was cut.

Reducing the risk of ryegrass staggers

The risk of ryegrass staggers is greater when the pasture is ryegrass-dominant and short.  If you have ryegrass dominant pastures, where possible rotate your pastures so that the animals don’t graze the pasture right down. If you are short of feed and that strategy is not viable, you may need to consider feedlotting at least your weaners, until the pasture grows and you can avoid grazing the pasture right down.

In the long term, you can reduce the risk of ryegrass staggers by increasing other pasture species. Block grazing techniques can increase the clover content. And you can sow other grasses (cocksfoot, tall fescue, prairie grass, phalaris etc, according to your rainfall, soil type and so on).

Also, varieties of ryegrass with low endophyte or non-toxic endophyte are now available.  You may need to consider resowing any paddocks that have caused ryegrass staggers with one of these new varieties.

Please note there is no evidence to support claims made by some that different fertiliser regimes or the application of salt or other additives to the pasture or water supply have any effect on ryegrass staggers.  The only “cure” is to remove the livestock from the infected pastures until the toxins dissipate.

If you have any queries about grass staggers, please contact your local vet or Bruce Jackson at DPIPWE on 6777 2115.​

FMD added to national emergency disease diagnosis and response network

AHA_LAB_007The Laboratories for Emergency Animal Disease Diagnosis and Response network (LEADDR) has expanded its scope with the inclusion of foot and mouth disease (FMD) into its testing regime.

LEADDR is managed by the CSIRO’s Australian Animal Health Laboratory (AAHL) and ensures surge capacity in laboratory preparedness for emergency animal diseases (EADs) in Australia. With the network’s inclusion in Animal Health Australia’s (AHA) AUSVETPLAN Laboratory Preparedness manual, LEADR is now firmly entrenched into collective EAD response practices.

“Animal health laboratories may be involved in the diagnosis of an emergency animal disease (EAD) in a surge capability,” AHA’s Executive Manager, Market Access Support, Kevin de Witte explains.

“This testing may be necessary to control or eradicate an EAD, or to prove freedom from it.

“The ability to undertake approved test methods and share results during disease events under LEADDR is important for national EAD response capacity and has been gaining momentum.  This has led to increased collaboration between the laboratories,” Dr de Witte said.

Beginning in 2012, Phase 1 of LEADDR’s FMD project involved constructing a roadmap for developing a long-term strategy for network capability and capacity for testing within LEADDR.  FMD serology for proof of freedom testing was also established and reagents were purchased to create a stockpile for use in the event of an FMD outbreak.

In 2013 Phase 2 of the project was completed, with the network strengthening QA testing for FMD. Key objectives included transferring Australian Animal Health Laboratory’s testing capability for FMD to the six participating LEADDR laboratories.

Distributed reagents were used in the conduct of a QA program for FMD qPCR and 3ABC C-ELISA and coordinating a network specificity exercise to add further data to the validation dossier for the 3ABC C-ELISA test.

In order to strengthen its QA capabilities, LEADDR has pursued further production of multispecies ELISA test kits for Influenza FLU A for distribution throughout the network. In addition the network will continue to participate in QA activities with the objective of ongoing demonstration of competency in network tests.

Despite this, the network still needs to identify a mechanism for funding all of its activities on an ongoing basis. LEADDR intends to progress the case for ongoing financial resourcing and the provision of a national network of laboratories for EAD diagnosis and response.

More information:

Access the AUSVETPLAN Laboratory Preparedness manual here.

New Biosecurity Incident Public Information Manual now available

BIPIM PicEffective communication is vital in responding to a biosecurity incident and keeping the public informed improves the effectiveness of actions taken to assist with recovery. In order to better support the response, Animal Health Australia (AHA) has now published the Biosecurity Incident Public Information Manual (BIPIM).

Available as an AUSVETPLAN resource on the AHA website, the BIPIM replaces the outdated Public Relations guide and enables Australian biosecurity/agricultural agencies and affected industries to apply a nationally consistent communication response to biosecurity incidents and emergencies.

Developed by the National Communication Network (NCN) with input from the AUSVETPLAN Technical Review Group, the Manual is part of an ‘all hazards approach’ and guides public information officers undertaking the activities that form part of the Biosecurity Incident Management System (BIMS).

BIMS is the nationally agreed standard used to guide the management of responses to biosecurity incidents. It is based on established incident management systems used throughout Australia, including the Australasian Inter-service Incident Management System (AIIMS). BIMS can be used across all biosecurity sectors.

BIMS was developed to enhance preparedness and consistency of response arrangements across Australian jurisdictions under the Intergovernmental Agreement on Biosecurity.

The Biosecurity Incident Public Information Manual can be assessed on the Animal Health Australia website here:

The results are in!

LPC0364_jpg Animal Health Australia (AHA) and Plant Health Australia (PHA), through our partnership in the Farm Biosecurity program, are committed to undertaking regular producer surveys to track trends in attitudes towards farm biosecurity and measure producer awareness of the program and its key messages.

 The most recent survey was commissioned and conducted in 2013 and was undertaken by the KG2 rural research company. The survey was designed so that results could be compared with similar results from the survey conducted in 2010.

 Click here to view a summary of the survey’s key findings. These results reflect some positive changing attitudes to practicing good on-farm biosecurity and a greater awareness about the Farm Biosecurity program specifically. Equally, this summary identifies areas where improvements can be made to increase producer awareness and practice of good on-farm biosecurity.

AHA March Members’ Forum hailed a success

03022014 member forum

Ian Roth, Chief Veterinary Officer at NSW DPI with Eva-Maria Bernoth, AHA

A facilitated workshop focused on developing AHA’s 2015-2020 Strategic Plan was a key activity at last month’s Members’ Forum, held in Canberra, where members also received valuable updates on the progress of several key current AHA programs and projects.

The first part of the forum was dedicated to reviewing the latest version of AHA’s draft 2014/15 Annual Operating Plan and seeking member endorsement of the draft Emergency Animal Disease (EAD) Training Plan. The Strategic Review and Development workshop then followed. 

Described as one of the most successful Members’ Forums, AHA Chief Executive Officer Kathleen Plowman said the strategy review and development workshop, facilitated by Benoit Trudeau, was particularly well received by members.

With AHA’s current Strategic Plan due to end next year, Ms Plowman said the workshop was an important step in the design, construction and articulation of AHA’s five year Strategic Plan for 2015–20.

“First and foremost, it was a critical consultative exercise that will have, through the plan, a direct and material effect on the way AHA structures its activities, allocates its funds and distributes available resources to an agreed end.

“Importantly, the Members’ Forums also provide an environment where government and industry stakeholders can discuss high level strategic issues and exchange viewpoints on strengthening Australia’s biosecurity, market access and animal welfare opportunities and arrangements.

These forums also provide an opportunity for our members to hear how AHA is addressing their needs and delivering on its mandate to foster collaborative partnerships with industry, government and individual farmers to shape and manage Australia’s animal health systems.

“We welcome the valuable contributions, productive exchanges and insights of our Members and by making our forums more interactive and focused on strategic issues we can work together for the development of a stronger animal health system,” she added.

Key outcomes of AHA Members’ Forum and workshop

The workshop explored the context of the environment facing AHA over the next five years and constraints and risks were explored. AHA non-negotiables were agreed and there was clear agreement on the importance of AHA’s role in emergency animal disease preparedness and response as well as specific areas of market access support and biosecurity services as it relates to supporting market access and EAD. 

Workshop proceedings and initial findings, including strategic priorities, will be presented to the AHA Board in mid-April with advice on a timeline to develop the new five year Strategic Plan and future consultations and engagement activities involving Members and key stakeholders.

AHA conducts at least two Members’ Forums every year. The next Member Forum will be held on 11 September in Sydney.

For more information on AHA programs and projects visit the AHA website.

Victorian saleyards tested for outbreak preparedness

Exercise-Odysseus-tests-our-preparedness-for-FMDSaleyards around Australia are proving they are ready for a national livestock standstill if Australia was struck with foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) according to a number of recent Exercise Odysseus activities.

Exercises were held at saleyards in Leongatha, Wodonga and Ballarat in March to see how they could cope with a virtual FMD outbreak.

The activities were organised by the Department of Environment and Primary Industries, Victoria with support from Animal Health Australia (AHA).

AHA manages the professional development of the national emergency animal disease Rapid Response Team (RRT), which participates in many Exercise Odysseus activities. AHA also provides valuable support, personal development and leadership opportunities for the government jurisdictions running the simulated exercises, which are designed to test and enhance government and industry preparedness for implementing a national livestock standstill.

AHA Coordinator for Learning & Development, Jude Nettleingham, was at the Ballarat and Leongatha exercises and commented on the quality of information and feedback collected during the activities.

“The RRT personnel provided a set of fresh eyes, offering an operational perspective to the saleyard owners for reviewing their FMD preparedness plan. It also provided an opportunity to go through some Nationally Agreed Standard Operating Procedures (NASOPs) which have been developed for use during responses to Emergency Animal Disease (EAD) incidents and emergencies.

 “As part of the Leongatha saleyard exercise, teams of DEPI staff and RRT members investigated aspects of the saleyard operations that might pose a challenge in a livestock standstill situation. A sale was in progress which added to the trial of the exercise.

“The teams considered saleyard security and access points; feeding, housing and securing livestock at the saleyard; impact on adjacent landholders; and, noted the range of people who were at the saleyard, including transporters, producers, agents and visitors,” she said.

More than 40 Exercise Odysseus activities will be conducted at an organisational, jurisdictional and national level in each Australian state and territory throughout 2014. Animal Health Australia representatives play a key role in the Exercise Odysseus planning and communications team, steering committee and working groups.

AHA continues to work with government agencies and livestock and associated industries to oversee the planning, conduct and evaluation of national livestock standstill exercises currently taking place.

More information
Visit AHA’s Exercise Odysseus page here.
Download Nationally Agreed Standard Operating Procedures (NASOPs) for your industry here.

What is biosecurity and what are we doing about it?

31032014 CSIRO biosecurity videoThe heighted biosecurity threats facing Australia as a result of globalisation and climate change have been showcased in a short video by The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO).

The three-minute animation, Biosecurity: Management of Risks, highlights the importance of biosecurity in protecting Australians’ health, the economy, industry and environment, from pests and pathogens entering, spreading or establishing in Australian waters or soil.

The animation, which also looks at the history of biosecurity research and examines future directions, can be viewed here:

Key points from the video:

• Australia’s enviable biosecurity status is increasingly threatened by growing connections to the world through global trade, the movement of plants, animals and people across the globe and by the uncertain impacts of climate change.

• In the last 20 years a staggering 70 per cent of emerging infectious diseases in people have been found to have originated in animals.

• CSIRO has developed its One Health Approach to understand how these viruses spread between wild animals, livestock and people, and how to reduce the risks, or be prepared for rapid response in a human pandemic situation.

CSIRO’s Biosecurity Flagship is focused on helping to protect Australia from biological threats and risks posed by serious exotic and endemic pests and diseases.

Farm biosecurity

To help producers take steps to reduce the risks posed by people, vehicles and equipment, Animal Health Australia’s (AHA) Farm Biosecurity program has produced a series of videos which are now available at:

The five-minute educational videos include practical advice and tips on how to reduce the biosecurity risk to your farm and features interviews with farmers about why biosecurity is important to them.

For more tools and information to help secure your farm, including gate signs, manuals and animal health declarations and statements, visit

Cattle Health Statements critical for NSW beef producers

31032014 Cattle health statementOngoing dry conditions in large sections of New South Wales are forcing some local producers to agist their herds, with some being moved to pasture in Victoria.

When moving livestock, NSW beef cattle producers are reminded that their cattle will need a completed national Cattle Health Statement (CHS) before leaving for, and returning from, agistment in Victoria.

The CHS includes the Beef Only certification, which confirms that beef cattle have not been grazed, or in close contact, with dairy cattle.

Cattle Council Australia Chief Executive Officer, Jed Matz, said that any cattle sent to Victoria without a completed CHS will be at risk of needing additional testing for bovine Johne’s disease (BJD) before returning to NSW.  Any producer who chooses to return their stock without certification could face steep penalties under NSW legislation.

“The requirements are a result of Victoria’s classification as a BJD ‘Management Area’, whilst NSW is a ‘Beef Protected Area’,” Mr Matz explained. “A ‘Beef Protected Area’ status requires strict management of cattle being imported from a ‘Beef Management Area’.

“Some NSW cattle producers maybe unaware of the differing status between the two states which is why we are reminding them of these requirements,” he said. The call for cattle producers to use a CHS was echoed by Animal Health Australia’s (AHA) Manager Endemic Diseases, Dr Lorna Citer.

“The statements are the best risk assessment tool when trading cattle whether it be locally, interstate or for overseas export.  Aside from the obvious fact that they are a vital weapon in fending off endemic diseases, they are also critical in helping achieve the best price for cattle,” Dr Citer said.

More information

Download a National Cattle Health Statement here.

Information on moving cattle interstate can be found on the Animal Health Australia website here.

New Hendra case confirmed in Queensland

 Photo: Shaun Ramadge

Photo: Shaun Ramadge

 A horse that tested positive to the Hendra virus was euthanased last week in the Bundaberg area, with another on the property to undergo testing, Biosecurity Queensland  announced on 19 March.

 Tracing and risk assessments are being undertaken on any animals that may have had contact with the infected horse and the property has been quarantined for at least a  month, with restrictions to moving horses and horse materials on and off the property.

 Queensland’s Chief Veterinary Officer Dr Rick Symons urged horse owners to remain vigilant in taking steps to reduce the risk of infection as Hendra virus can occur  year round.

 “If a horse becomes sick, owners should contact their veterinarian immediately. People in contact with horses need to remember to continue to practice good biosecurity  and personal hygiene measures even if a horse is vaccinated against the Hendra virus.

“Vaccination is the single most effective way of reducing the risk of Hendra virus infection in horses. It is recommended that horse owners speak to their veterinarian about vaccinating their horses.”

Dr Symons said this case was the first Hendra virus incident in Queensland this year.

Horse owners and vets are encouraged to download the latest information on Hendra virus from the website or by calling 13 25 23.

For information on the vaccine, visit

Download the Horse Venue Biosecurity Workbook here.

New biosecurity workshops prepare producers for disease outbreaks

LBN biosecurity workshops 25032014Central Queensland producers will learn how good biosecurity practices can protect their assets and future-proof their livelihood at a series of interactive biosecurity workshops on the 3–4 April in Moura and Rolleston.

Biosecurity risk is one of the biggest issues facing the viability of Australia’s livestock industry today and early detection is critical in dealing with outbreaks of endemic or exotic diseases.

The Farm Biosecurity Plan workshops are for livestock producers interested in improving their on-farm biosecurity and who want to take proactive steps against diseases, pests and weeds.

Conducted by the Livestock Biosecurity Network (LBN), in conjunction with AgForce Queensland and the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, the workshops will help producers develop a Farm Biosecurity Plan and will look at how to prevent and manage the risk of disease outbreaks through practical activities and demonstrations.

Workshop topics will include feral animal control, minimising and controlling weed seed spread on vehicles and equipment, animal health management and waste management. Producers will also have opportunities to speak to experts on a range of issues.  

The workshops are part of a national effort to boost awareness of biosecurity risks for livestock producers, to promote on-farm awareness, encourage the uptake of principles of on-farm biosecurity and examine ways of creating a personalised on-farm biosecurity plan.

LBN’s National Manager, Warren Clark said most on-farm biosecurity practices are free or very cheap to implement and have “ongoing payoff and returns, reducing your chances of introducing important economic diseases, like Ovine Johne’s disease, footrot, lice, multi-resistant worms in sheep and Bovine Johne’s disease (BJD) and Pestivirus in cattle,” he explained.

“The livestock industry must be prepared to act quickly and decisively in the event of an incursion.

“Early detection of disease is critical to its control and those most likely to detect an exotic or endemic disease already work with livestock on a regular basis,” he added. 

Key dates for your diary:

Workshop registrations close Thursday 27 March

Moura RSL: 8.30am-3.00pm, Thursday 3 April 2014

Rolleston Town Hall: 8.30am-3.00pm, Friday 4 April 2014


DAFF Biloela on 07 49929111 or Jason Bode on 0427 878 018

LBN Queensland officer – Dr Sarah-Jane Wilson, 0437 725 877,  

LBN National Manager – Warren Clark, Phone: 02 6269 5621,

Download the workshop flyer and registration form here