Joint Media Release: Beef herd health—it extends far beyond our airports

15 August 2019

Deputy Leader of the Nationals and Minister for Agriculture, Bridget McKenzie
Member for Capricornia, Michelle Landry


The ongoing health of Australia’s national beef herd goes far beyond the work we do to check passengers at airports and cargo at our ports.

Minister for Agriculture, Senator Bridget McKenzie, and Member for Capricornia, Michelle Landry, said the region’s beef industry face very real biosecurity threats that demand a sophisticated response.

“Diseases like Foot and Mouth Disease, screw worm fly and rabies exist in countries to our north that are so close,” Minister McKenzie said.

“When people have their jerky or salami confiscated when returning from holidays they may think it’s bureaucracy gone mad.

“The risk is real and it’s critically important to maintaining Australia’s enviable pest and disease status.

“We have strict import requirements when it comes to legally bringing beef and bovine products into the country and require those few countries that are allowed to supply us with these products to meet rigorous requirements.

“Then there’s the work we do to prevent risks entering through airports and sea ports which is all vital to protect our human, animal and plant health. But that’s the tip of the iceberg.

“Few would know about the four Australian Government funded ‘sentinel cattle herds,’ strategically located across the top end, Papua New Guinea and Timor Leste which are tested for exotic diseases that may have arrived in Australia through pathways unique to this region, such as biting midges blowing across the Torres Strait from PNG or from Indonesia.

“My department regularly collects blood from sentinel cattle herds across northern Australia to look for biosecurity concerns and to keep Australian beef free from exotic diseases. For over 20 years this early warning system has been helping us keep a look out.

“The Australian Government also helps to fund the National Arbovirus Monitoring Program, a critical, front-line animal disease monitoring activity designed to defend Australia’s livestock industry and support trade.

“We also partner with Indigenous ranger groups and 15 private veterinary practices servicing the cattle industry to conduct biosecurity surveillance across northern Australia. They are effectively at the frontline.

“And our vets work from New Zealand to Nepal to share best practice surveillance, diagnostics and treatment to protect Australia from potentially devastating diseases.”

Ms Landry said Queensland, and Capricornia, is the epicentre of beef production in Australia, with more than 12,000 Queensland businesses contributing $5.47 billion to the national economy.

“Rockhampton is the beef capital of Australia. Our contribution to the industry is significant and enduring, and it’s critical we as a government back our local producers and protect their livestock from exotic animal disease risks such as foot and mouth disease,” Ms Landry said.

“An outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease could cost Australia, and the beef industry, $50 billion over 10 years. Obviously prevention is better than cure.

“That’s why early detection of exotic pests is vital to maintain a healthy agricultural industry and together with industry 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.”

Fast Facts:

  • A sentinel herd early warning system has been established in Timor-Leste, as part of a broader effort to boost biosecurity surveillance and analysis and protect Australia’s valuable livestock industries and exports.
  • Australian biosecurity saves the average farmer around $17,500 each year.
  • A 2013 report by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences estimated that the direct impact of a large multi-state FMD outbreak in Australia would result in an economic cost of around $50 billion over 10 years.
  • See more of the work Indigenous Rangers do online.