Northern biosecurity authorities are on alert after a serious viral disease affecting cattle and buffalo has been detected in Indonesia.
- Lumpy skin disease has been reported in 31 Indonesian villages
- The disease has spread rapidly through South-East Asia
- If found in Australia, lumpy skin disease could devastate livestock industries
The Indonesian government this week confirmed lumpy skin disease had been found in 31 villages on the island of Sumatra.
The viral disease causes skin lesions, fever, loss of appetite, decreased milk production, and can lead to death in cattle and buffalo.
It has been moving steadily through South-East Asia over the past few years, and authorities warn there would be huge ramifications for livestock industries if there was an incursion in Australia.
Chief veterinary officer Mark Schipp said it was not surprising lumpy skin disease had been detected in Indonesia.
“We’ve been watching the spread of this disease through South-East Asia over the past couple of years,” Dr Schipp said.
“It is very concerning given that Indonesia is so close to northern Australia and some vulnerable neighbours in our north, those being Timor Leste and Papua New Guinea.
“At present, it has only been reported in one province of Indonesia, but we fully expect, given Ramadan is about to commence, where there is a large-scale movement of cattle right across Indonesia, that it will spread through the Indonesian archipelago over the next 12 months.”
Last year, a review of Australia’s biosecurity protocols recommended major changes to livestock traceability systems to help deal with potential outbreaks of diseases like lumpy skin disease.
Lumpy skin disease could spread across Timor Sea
Lumpy skin disease is primarily spread by biting flies, mosquitoes, and possibly ticks, making it difficult to control.
“One of our concerns in relation to [lumpy skin disease] moving closer to Australia is that a cyclone, strong winds, a returning livestock vessel or the cargo hold of an aircraft could bring insects into Australia that are infected,” Dr Schipp said.
Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said the federal government would provide support to help Indonesia contain the spread of the disease.
“Australia stands ready to assist Indonesia and our other near neighbours to respond to this outbreak and my department is actively engaging with senior officials there,” he said.
“My department will examine all available options to contain the spread of this disease in Indonesia and across the region.”
Australia at risk of live export shutdown
If there was an incursion of lumpy skin disease into the country, Australia would not be able to export live cattle.
“It would also have an impact on the meat and dairy industries,” Dr Schipp said.
“But the first and most immediate impact would be on Australia’s live cattle exports, and obviously that’s very important to all of northern Australia’s cattle producers.
“For that reason, we’re very keen and determined to keep the disease out of Australia.
“It is critical that cattle producers are aware of what lumpy skin disease looks like, and report any signs of the disease observed in their cattle immediately to the Emergency Animal Disease Watch Hotline on 1800 675 888.”