Media Release

Beefed up security for disease threats in the north

9 October 2014

Minister for Agriculture, Barnaby Joyce, today visited one of Australia’s most northern biosecurity defences at the tip of Cape York for a firsthand look at the sentinel cattle herds that play an essential role in the protection of Australia’s livestock industries.

Minister Joyce said that the sole purpose of ‘sentinel’ herds was to act as an early warning system for exotic pests and diseases that may have arrived in the country. During his recent visit, Prime Minister Tony Abbott made visiting these cattle a priority.

“Sentinel herds are strategically located across the top end and regularly tested for exotic diseases that may have arrived in Australia through pathways unique to this region, such as biting midges crossing the Torres Strait,” Minister Joyce said.

“Most Australians would be unaware of Department of Agriculture programmes to collect blood from sentinel cattle herds across northern Australia to look for biosecurity concerns and keep Australian produce disease-free.

“The National Arbovirus Monitoring Programme, for example, is a critical, front-line animal disease monitoring activity designed to defend Australia’s livestock industry.

“Insect-borne diseases that arrive on the wind or with travellers from the north could prove fatal to Australia’s globally recognised status of high-quality, disease free livestock producers.

“With Australia’s beef cattle herd at around 24 million head, the Australian Government is strongly committed to helping producers and protecting their livelihood.”

Minister Joyce said that frontline screening provides important assurance to countries who import billions of dollars of Australian produce.

“The programme, managed by Animal Health Australia and jointly funded by government and the livestock industry, is a great example of the partnerships that protect Australia’s valuable industries,” Minister Joyce said.

“Early detection of exotic pests is vital to maintain a healthy agricultural industry and together we are doing just that.

“The message is clear: biosecurity is everyone’s responsibility – even the cattle at the top end of Australia have a role to play.”