Bounty on Bali boots to counter FMD threat

Rm williams jackaroo and kids monster gumboots with suitcase

As the Foot & Mouth Disease (FMD) outbreak in Indonesia escalates into a major crisis, the geographically close proximity to us seems terrifying on the surface to the Australian livestock industry, but what is the reality? Remember that there is a huge difference in capability to prevent, and contain the disease by Australia, compared to other nations, and there are things that every Aussie can do to help keep it out of the country.

How did FMD spread to Indonesia?

Dr Ross Ainsworth, a prominent Aussie vet residing in Bali, suggests that the most likely source of initial introduction to Indonesia was probably from Indian Buffalo Meat (IBM) or smuggled livestock. Thankfully, both those risks are not applicable to Australia.

That leaves tourists from Indonesia as the most likely disease carrying vector. Animal husbandry in Bali is undertaken in a drastically different way to Australia – cattle are kept in close proximity to houses, and livestock have a habit of wandering though streets, and backyards where locals provide tourist accommodation.

According to Australian Cattle Veterinarians  president, Dr Tracy Sullivan, the Melbourne Uni CEBRA biosecurity expert panel has determined that there is a 11.6% chance that FMD will get into Australia in the next 5 years.

What can we do to help stop the spread?

Tourists love taking photos with the animals, bringing many into close contact with them. Having a crook calf chew your shirt, or slipping on a cow pat on the street has the potential to spread FMD back to Australia.

Historically, about 25% of Bali’s 6m annual pre-pandemic visitors were Australian, with Indonesia targeting 1.8-3.6m arrivals for 2022. In April 2022, 11,240 people put their boots back on Australian soil after spending time in Indonesia, with pre-pandemic arrivals sitting at around 100k per month. (figure 2).

Communicating effectively to tourists coming back to Australia to throw away or disinfect their shoes, wash their belongings, and stay away from livestock is key to keeping FMD out of Australia. The National Farmers federation (NFF) recently announced a bounty on holiday shoes with a #throwyourthongs campaign to encourage travelers to bin their boots on arrival.

Compensation a key pillar in any detection and management program.

In Indonesia, minimal to zero compensation for producers reporting FMD has accelerated transmission of the virus. Farmers there are incentivized to sell them to recover what they can of their investment.

In Australia, compensation for destroyed animals and property at fair market rates is enshrined in an agreement between all the states in the Emergency Animal Disease Response Agreement (EADRA 2001) and National Environmental Biosecurity Agreement. (NEBRA 2021)

FMD is classed as Category 2 disease, with the government footing the bill for 80% of all compensation costs.  Producers can apply for additional compensation when they restock, if replacement animals become more expensive in the intervening time. Time limits of 90 days post destruction, and 30 days post restocking eligibility to apply do apply though. Valuation of stock is based on the latest published MLA prices for the saleyards closest to the property.

If you are suspicious that your stock might display symptoms of FMD, such as blisters on the mouth, hooves, teats and nose, or lameness, drooling and fever, report it immediately by calling the Emergency Animal disease hotline on 1800 675 888

What does it mean?

The more holidaymakers that understand that we all play a critical role in protecting Australian farmers, the lower the risk we face. We can all help by throwing away, or disinfecting shoes, washing clothes, and staying away from rural areas and livestock upon return to Australian shores, or even when moving between properties.

“Leave your Boots in Bali” and “Throw Your Thongs” are catchy slogans that producers can promote widely to raise awareness among people travelling from Indonesia that they have an important part to play on the front line of Australian biosecurity.

Jump on your favourite social media platform, and get sharing to spread the word. #throwyourthongs #leaveyourbootsinbali

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Key Points

  • FMD probably spread to Indonesia in infected meat imports, and smuggled cattle, a major risk Australia doesn’t have.
  • Compensation for FMD losses is available in Australia, but not Indonesia, making it harder to prevent and control there compared to here. The NFF offers tourists a boot bounty.
  • Producers can actively help raise awareness among holidaymakers that they are on the front line of protecting Australian farmers, and to “Leave their boots in Bali”

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Data sources:  ABS, 

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