The value of keeping records in a disease incursion

// Pests and Diseases

The Government’s COVID-19 response has demonstrated the importance of recording and tracing in limiting the spread of disease in people and the same applies to livestock.

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Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s Senior Advisor, Biosecurity and Animal Welfare Will Halliday, says while farmers may feel swamped with paperwork, record-keeping is a genuinely useful biosecurity practice.

“Records will be invaluable in any pest or disease incursion and may help protect your business and the wider industry from significant disruption.”

For sheep and beef farmers, records of animal movements, NAIT and ASDs, are critical in outbreaks of disease.

“Animal diseases tend to move with animals, so the ability to “back-trace” animal movements to their origin and “forward-trace” animals to their destination is fundamental to the tracking and detection of disease.”

Will says animal health records are valuable for many reasons – from food safety to making informed culling decisions – but they can also help in a disease outbreak scenario by providing evidence of preventative treatments, dates of yarding, and trends of drug use over time.

“The use of farm-planning software to record treatments and animal movements is becoming more popular. Not only is it a valuable tool for planning and recording events on the farm, but in the event of a disease outbreak it can provide a record of livestock movements within the property.”

These records could also be valuable if and when it comes to culling decisions and calculation of compensation. They could, for example, give farmers the ability to demonstrate that two mobs of cattle have never been in contact with each other.

Health and Safety registers provide a useful record of who was on the farm, when, why, and where on the farm they went.

“For example, you may be hosting a field-day or discussion group, or have contractors, beekeepers, line workers, or recreational hunters or horse-riders on the property – any of which could be a vector for pests or diseases.”

An auditable record of farm visits could provide investigators with information crucial to identifying the source of an incursion or outbreak, so it is important visitors sign a register upon arrival.