Nominations now open for the illustrious Ralph Hood Award

AHA Board Chairman Peter Milne presents the 2013 Ralph Hood Award to Dr Simon Fireston

AHA Board Chairman Peter Milne presents the 2013 Ralph Hood Award to Dr Simon Fireston

Animal Health Australia (AHA) is looking for passionate, committed people working in the field of animal health to apply for the 2014 Ralph Hood Award of a $15,000 grant for professional development.

Open to all of our members, service providers and associate members, the award acknowledges people with leadership potential and a strong commitment in their organisation or field to improve animal health in Australia.

Last year’s winner is Dr Simon Firestone, a lecturer in Veterinary Epidemiology and Public Health at the University of Melbourne. Dr Firestone is coordinating the University’s new Master of Veterinary Public Health (Emergency Animal Diseases) program, which will be producing its first graduates in 2015. In addition, he is also developing a productive research program focused on epidemiology and veterinary public health including avian influenza planning and preparedness, an evaluation of Australia’s national system of zoonosis surveillance and epidemiological analyses and reporting on human notifiable disease surveillance.

The Ralph Hood Award offers considerable flexibility regarding the type of professional development activity that the winner could fund with the prize-money, however it is not intended to be utilised as a substitute for other sources of research funding.

Some suggested uses for the prize-money include a contribution towards continuing education such as a master’s degree, attendance at an international conference, a national or international study tour, or as financial support for work experience, secondment or internship to work with a recognised expert or a relevant national/international organisation such as the World Organisation for Animal Health, World Health Organisation or other peak industry body.

The AHA Board will be reviewing applications for their relevance to the Australian animal health system, but applicants are encouraged to be creative and entrepreneurial in their approach as the award aims to foster innovation as well as leadership.

Full details of the award, which is named after former AHA CEO Ralph Hood, who passed away in February 2010, are available at or download the brochure here.

Entries opened on Friday 22 August and close 31 September. The winner will be announced at the AHA Members’ Forum in Canberra on 26 November.

Australia’s animal welfare crisis situation

Photo: Lillian Frost

Photo: Lillian Frost

An animal welfare crisis can happen anytime and anywhere. It could be the result of a natural disaster, or a property-specific crisis such as the sudden death or injury of a producer or a farm ‘walk-off’. Any event that threatens business continuity can impact animal welfare, particularly in the intensive industries.

A recent report by the Crisis Response for Animal Welfare (CRAW) project determined that there could be improvements in how Australia manages animal welfare crises arising from localised, small-scale issues like farm walk offs, sudden deaths and system malfunctions.  However, the report determined that Australia is well placed to manage large scale animal welfare crises that arise from events such as natural disasters and emergency animal disease outbreaks.

The report also acknowledged the important role the community plays in supporting producers during large scale events like natural disasters.

The report made 13 recommendations to improve Australia’s capability in responding to livestock welfare crises. There are recommendations for the state and federal governments, Industry and due to its integral role during property-specific crises, the finance sector.

In summary the key recommendations are:


o   develop a tool kit to guide animal welfare contingency planning for producers

o   formalise Industry’s role and responsibility in dealing animal welfare crisis responses

o   clarify the use of industry held funds, reserves and resources in responding to animal welfare crises


o   retain lead in responding to animal welfare crises

o   improve animal welfare crisis response plans, response tactics and national coordination arrangements

Finance Sector

o   develop policies, guidelines and training for finance staff that consider livestock welfare during a property closure or financial hardship being experienced by producers


The CRAW was established and developed under the previous Australian Government’s Australian Animal Welfare Strategy (AAWS).  As the AAWS has now concluded, livestock industries and Australian and state governments will develop a consultation and management strategy to implement the CRAW recommendations to improve Australian arrangements.

The CRAW project was managed by Kelly Wall, Project Officer at AHA, with a project team comprising of Kevin Shiell (Australian Dairy Farmers), Justin Toohey (Cattle Council of Australia), Steve Tate (Victoria Department of Primary Industries), Scott Turner (Department of Agriculture) and Kevin de Witte, Executive Manager – Market Access Support at AHA. Funding was provided by AAWS, Meat & Livestock Australia, Australian Wool Innovation and Dairy Australia.

The final report is available on the AAWS website here or alternatively contact

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Have you spotted anything unusual?

GoatsAnimal Health Australia’s (AHA) revamped Spotted anything unusual? campaign has been launched to remind producers to be on the lookout for symptoms of unusual or exotic livestock diseases that have the potential to devastate Australia’s livestock industry and impact human health.

Distribution of Spotted Anything Unusual? fridge magnets will kick off the campaign, with the slogan ‘Look, check, ask a vet’.

The magnets are being distributed around the country through the Livestock Biosecurity Network and AHA’s livestock industry members.

The magnet set includes eight individual designs featuring the screw worm fly (considered to be the most serious exotic pest threatening Australia’s northern livestock production) and images of animals from Australia’s major livestock industries:

  • beef cattle
  • dairy
  • goats
  • horses
  • pigs
  • sheep meat
  • wool

Animal Health Australia’s Executive Manager Biosecurity, Duncan Rowland said the Spotted Anything Unusual fridge magnets are designed to enlist the help of Australia’s producers to keep a lookout for unusual symptoms as part of their existing stock monitoring routine.

“Early detection of and responding quickly to existing endemic diseases is an important on-farm biosecurity practice. However, the message we want to give producers is that by proactively monitoring their livestock they can help their own industry and potentially the nation, by reporting symptoms that could be as a result of an exotic disease like foot and mouth disease.

“Producers should always be on the lookout for signs of disease and if they see unusual symptoms they should report them straight away. Early intervention is vital in an emergency animal disease outbreak.

“If you suspect a pest or disease outbreak or have seen something unusual and you’re not sure whether it’s an exotic pest or disease, report it. Don’t worry how insignificant it may be. Small signs may be an early indication that something’s wrong,” Mr Rowland said.

Suspicions of a serious livestock disease must be reported to your local government vet, your own private vet, a stock inspector or call the free Emergency Animal Disease Watch Hotline on 1800 675 888.

Go to the Farm Biosecurity emergency animal diseases page for information about reporting unusual symptoms.

Next steps for cattle and sheep welfare standards and guidelines

The Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for Cattle is now available. Photo: Megan Banks

The Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for Cattle are now available. Photo: Megan Banks

Development of the Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for Cattle and Sheep has concluded. If ministerial endorsement is received, the standards are intended to be used as the basis for developing nation-wide consistent legislation and enforcement for the care and management of cattle and sheep across all farming enterprises in Australia.

The development of the cattle and sheep standards and guidelines began in 2009 and was supported and funded by all governments and the peak livestock industries including WoolProducers Australia, Sheepmeat Council of Australia, Australian Dairy Farmers, Australian Lot Feeders Association and Cattle Council of Australia.

The standards and guidelines project was established and developed under the previous Australian Government’s Australian Animal Welfare Strategy (AAWS).

AAWS was designed to guide the development of a range of nationally consistent policies to enhance animal welfare arrangements in all Australian states and territories.

The new standards and guidelines are intended to replace the:

  •  Model Codes of Practice for the Welfare of Animals Cattle, 2nd edition, PISC Report 85, CSIRO Publishing, 2004
  • Model Codes of Practice for the Welfare of Animals: Sheep, 2nd edition, PISC Report 89, CSIRO Publishing, 1991 (revised 2006).

The standards are based on scientific knowledge, recommended industry practice and community expectations. If the standards are endorsed by the Australian Government, enforcement of the new legislation will be the responsibility of the state and territory governments.

A decision Regulatory Impact Statement (RIS), which analysed any potential costs to individual producers as a result of the standards becoming endorsed, was recently endorsed by the Australian Government Office of Best Practice Regulation.

The Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for Cattle and the Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for Sheep and other related documents are now available at

Exercise Odysseus activities wrap up in Queensland


The last of Queensland’s Exercise Odysseus activities finished in Brisbane last month.

The financial costs of implementing a national livestock standstill, the management of animals in transit and associated legal concerns were just some of the topics discussed at the Exercise Odysseus Queensland state exercise in Brisbane on 17 July.

Coordinated by Queensland Government Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF), the state exercise was the culmination of Queensland’s five Exercise Odysseus activities held over the past six months. The exercise program identified areas for improvements in existing plans and arrangements in order to more effectively implement a national livestock standstill in response to an outbreak of FMD.

The exercise was attended by Animal Health Australia (AHA), government agencies, livestock groups and AHA members including Cattle Council of Australia, Sheepmeat Council of Australia and WoolProducer’s Australia, as well as a number of allied and support government agencies and non-government organisations, such as Queensland Treasury and Trade, the Department of Transport and Main Roads and the RSPCA. AHA also coordinated the attendance of members of the national emergency animal disease Rapid Response Team, as part of their program of professional development activities.

AHA Veterinary Officer Dr Brendan Pollard helped facilitate group discussions as part of the Queensland state exercise and said the activity provided a useful snapshot of the sunshine state’s readiness for implementing a livestock standstill.

“Similarly to the Victorian state discussion held in May, the Queensland exercise provided a useful gap analysis as to some of the lessons learned from previous exercises. The activity also demonstrated the increased collaboration between industry and government, particularly at an operational level,” Dr Pollard explained.

“Strengthening Australia’s ability to effectively respond to and manage emergency animal disease outbreaks requires close partnerships and communication with primary industries, government agencies, producers and rural communities.

“The activities undertaken around the country as part of Exercise Odysseus has helped build partnerships between agricultural and non-agricultural organisations as well as define the roles and responsibilities of participating agencies in an all-inclusive approach to managing a livestock standstill.”

Exercise Odysseus activities will continue in August with an exercise for the National Emergency Animal Diseases Management Group (NMG) on 19 August in Canberra. The aim of the NMG exercise will be to practice decision-making and to explore financial, policy and other issues pertinent to NMG’s role in deciding whether or not to declare a national livestock standstill. NMG will consider the recommendations from an exercise for the Consultative Committee on Emergency Animal Diseases (CCEAD), which was held in March 2014.

AHA will continue to provide updates about Exercise Odysseus Activities on the website

Make a difference with AUSVETPLAN

Talk to AHA about joining AUSTVETPLAN's Registry of Reviewers.

Talk to AHA about joining AUSTVETPLAN’s Registry of Reviewers.

The value of the Australian Veterinary Emergency Plan (AUSVETPLAN) and the vital role stakeholders play in providing input and feedback into emergency animal disease guidance documents was highlighted at the Australian and New Zealand College of Veterinary Scientists (ANZCVS) Science Week held in Queensland from 10-12 July 2014.

Managed and maintained by Animal Health Australia (AHA), AUSVETPLAN is a comprehensive series of manuals. These are used by industries and governments to guide their emergency animal disease response activities with incident-specific Emergency Animal Disease Response Plans based on AUSVETPLAN prepared by the relevant jurisdictions at the time of an outbreak.

AUSVETPLAN ensures no time is lost in mounting a response and was used in the successful eradication of equine influenza from Australia following the 2007 outbreak. It has also been used to guide responses to outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza, low pathogenic avian influenza – all of which were successfully eradicated – and Hendra virus.

Presenting at ANZCVS’s Science Week, AHA’s AUSVETPLAN Policy Officer Dr Francette Geraghty-Dusan urged conference attendees to ensure they become familiar with and be part of AUSVETPLAN.

“Input from all stakeholders is vital and there are several ways people can contribute to AUSVETPLAN, such as joining the Registry of Reviewers,” Dr Geraghty-Dusan said.

“Other ways to contribute are to simply ensure you use and are familiar with the AUSVETPLAN manuals, complete the EAD foundation online training course or become involved in state and territory scenario training and exercises.”

AHA works collaboratively with the livestock industries and governments to undertake a number of projects and technical reviews to keep AUSVETPLAN current and up-to-date in the event of a disease outbreak. AHA also welcomes feedback on AUSVETPLAN manuals at any time.

How to be part of AUSVETPLAN

  • Talk to AHA about joining the Registry of Reviewers and providing input to AUSVETPLAN writing groups – correct scientific advice provides the basis for the response policy.
  • Complete the EAD foundation online training course.
  • Familiarise yourself with and use AUSVETPLAN manuals and documents.

For more information about AUSVETPLAN go to the AHA website here or to get involved email

For more information about the EAD foundation online training course click here or email

AHA staff members nominated for illustrious awards

Dr Rob Barwell, AHA Biosecurity Officer

Dr Rob Barwell, AHA Biosecurity Officer

Animal Health Australia’s (AHA) Biosecurity Officer Dr Rob Barwell has been nominated for the University of Sydney’s Edmund Barton Medal.

The Edmund Barton Medal was established in 2011 to honour masters by coursework graduates who achieved academic excellence and who contributed to enriching to life of the University and the community.

Rob was nominated by the University of Sydney’s Veterinary Science Faculty for the award not only because of his academic performance, but also because of his positive impact on the broader community.

As part of his Masters of Veterinary Public Health Management, Rob was involved in the development of a game that improves the awareness of rabies control in countries where the disease is endemic. ‘Dogsville’ is a role-playing game where children learn about preventative measures against rabies, such as vaccination and other ways to be a responsible pet owner. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) provided funds for the production and distribution of the game in the Philippines for World Rabies Day 2013.

Additionally, as part of Rob’s dissertation he worked with the Tablelands Livestock Health and Pest Authority (now Local Land Services) on investigating possible risk factors associated with foot abscesses in sheep.  This involved a survey of around 115 sheep producers on the central tablelands of NSW.

At AHA, Rob is responsible for a number of key biosecurity programs and projects including the Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies Freedom Assurance Program (TSEFAP) and the new pilot Livestock Production Conditions Project.

Not-for-profit manager of the year

Dr Peter Dagg, Manager AUSTVETPLAN

Dr Peter Dagg, Manager AUSTVETPLAN

Another AHA staff member who has demonstrated excellence in his field is Dr Peter Dagg, Manager AUSVETPLAN. Peter has been nominated for the Australian Institute of Management (AIM) 2014 Excellence Awards in the ‘Not-for-profit Manager of the Year’ category. The not-for-profit sector makes important contributions to society and the economy, the impacts of which are sometimes overlooked.

This award recognises outstanding managers who have transformed cultures, helped develop individuals in their organisation and have managed the demands of stakeholders. Peter’s nomination is recognition by AHA’s board, staff and other stakeholders in showing excellence in management and leadership.

As the manager of the world-leading AUSVETPLAN, Peter is responsible for ensuring that Australia has a unified and agreed approach in times of animal disease emergencies across animal management, communications, and implementation and coordination of effective policy and strategy.

Peter began his career in dairy practice in Victoria, following which he moved to Canberra and managed the Adverse Experience Reporting Program at the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority. In 2004 Peter joined the Department of Agriculture, where he managed a number of major projects and policy development activities in the areas of national animal health strategies, food safety and veterinary public health. Peter had key roles during the 2007 equine influenza and 2009 pandemic (H1N1) influenza outbreaks, and a number of responses to Hendra virus incidents.

Peter also manages a 212 hectare Dorper and White Dorper sheep stud, with a focus on producing excellent genetics that consistently meet both national and international market requirements.

AHA staff would like to congratulate Rob and Peter on their award nominations.

Read more about Dogsville and AHA’s projects and programs.

Industry and government come together at HPAI workshop

Birds sick with AI. Photo: CSIRO

Birds sick with AI. Photo: CSIRO

A workshop looking at the lessons learnt from a highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) incident in NSW in 2013 and how these can be incorporated into future responses and policies was hosted by Animal Health Australia (AHA) last month in Canberra.

It was attended by government and industry representatives including one of the affected producers. Comments from the Australian Egg Corporation Limited (AECL) funded workshop included more preparedness outside of emergency response situations and increased industry involvement in the development and management of a response at the earliest possible opportunity in the event of a HPAI outbreak.

“Key decisions are better made in non-response periods where possible. Industries and governments can reduce the time for decision-making by documenting Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and indicative costs for common, critical EAD response operational activities such as risk assessment, destruction, disposal and decontamination,” Dr Eva-Maria Bernoth, Executive Manager, Emergency Preparedness and Response, explained.

“There is also an opportunity for affected industries to play a more active role in the planning and management of the emergency animal disease response either through a redefined Industry Liaison Officer role or another specific role in AUSVETPLAN embedded in the response team,” she said.

The workshop also focussed on ways to improve the financial administration of response management as well as effective communication with the affected parties, which included establishing appropriate communication protocols to keep affected livestock owners advised of the objectives, progress and obstacles in the response.

In Australia, the most recent HPAI incident occurred at a free-range production facility in NSW in late 2013.

The outbreak was successfully eradicated following agreements in AUSVETPLAN, a comprehensive series of policy and guideline manuals for agencies and organisations involved in a response to an outbreak of an emergency animal disease, such as avian influenza.

For more information about AUSVETPLAN click here.

Spotted anything unusual?

While the risk of emergency animal diseases is low in Australia, all bird and poultry owners should be vigilant for signs of disease. Look and check for any unusual behaviour and/or symptoms in your birds and/or poultry and if you spot anything unusual ask a vet or contact the Emergency Animal Disease Hotline on 1800 675 888.

AHA welcomes its newest Australian citizen


AHA’s newest Australian Citizen

Animal Health Australia’s (AHA) Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Officer Rob Thomas joined more than 150 people in pledging their allegiance to the nation during an Australian citizenship ceremony held in Canberra on 12 June.

Born in Scotland and raised in Northern Ireland, Rob was a Weapons Specialist in the Royal Air Force before moving to Australia in May 2008.

Before joining AHA in 2012, Rob was employed as an IT specialist at business services and communication solutions provider OPUS Group, where he managed the IT infrastructure and provided support OPUS affiliates in Australia, Singapore and New Zealand.

As well as an Irish accent and bubbly nature, Rob brings more than eight years of IT experience to AHA. In addition to being responsible for all things IT-related at AHA, Rob has undertaken several key projects such as the complete redevelopment of the Australian Animals Pathology Standard Program (AAPSP) and Emergency Animal Disease (EAD) Trainers extranets where he updated and greatly enhanced the functionality of the systems, greatly benefiting AHA and its members.

AHA celebrated Rob’s addition to the Australian citizenship family with an Australian food inspired morning tea including the obligatory lamingtons.