Media Release

Stopping one hundred million animals in their tracks to combat disease

12 March 2014

Australia's preparedness to enforce a snap nation-wide livestock standstill, affecting about 100 million animals, will be assessed in 2014.

Minister for Agriculture, Barnaby Joyce, said the Australian Government, along with other jurisdictions and industry organisations, will look at its response arrangements that would be activated in the event of a foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) outbreak in Australia.

"Recent ABARES research found the impact of an FMD outbreak in Australia could cost our economy up to $52 billion over 10 years. The quicker we could stamp it out, the less impact there would be at the farmgate," Minister Joyce said.

"Critical to limiting the spread of FMD will be our ability to stop the movement of livestock, and therefore contain the disease.

"This will not be an easy task given the volume of livestock, the number of livestock movements each day around Australia – and our geography.

"Exercise Odysseus will assess the current plans and procedures that would be used to halt Australia's livestock movements for 72 hours – in the event of a disease outbreak – and look to see if the plans are appropriate and if improvements can be made."

The exercise is made up of a number of workshops and field activities across Australia in 2014 with the findings from each activity feeding into the next one.

"This is an opportunity to get biosecurity authorities and industry together and better prepared for the enormous logistical challenges that an FMD outbreak would pose," Minister Joyce said.

"Ensuring we're as prepared as we can be, with robust plans in place and people well-rehearsed in what they need to do, is one of the best insurance policies we can have against FMD."

FMD is a serious and highly contagious disease that affects cloven hoofed animals and would affect Australia's ability to access exports markets for many major commodities, including livestock, meat products, wool and dairy.

More information about Exercise Odysseus is available at the Australian Government Department of Agriculture's website daff.gov.au/exerciseodysseus.