Livestock standstill for foot and mouth disease (FMD)

A livestock standstill is a total standstill on the movement of livestock when there is a suspected emergency animal disease (EAD) outbreak, including FMD. A livestock standstill will restrict the spread of the disease and allow authorities time to conduct surveillance activities and trace the movement of affected livestock.

When a livestock standstill is called, you must not move any animals that are susceptible to FMD (pigs, cattle, sheep, goats, deer, camelids (alpaca, llama, camels), bison and buffalo) off a property, or receive any of these animals onto a property, unless:

  • the animals were in already on the road when the standstill was called, or
  • a movement permit has been issued by the NSW Department of Primary Industries.

Susceptible animals must not be moved in any region while a standstill is in place - even if they don’t look sick or FMD hasn’t been detected in your area. Government and industry need the support of every member of the livestock industries for a livestock standstill to be effective. Everyone in the livestock supply chain needs to understand how a livestock standstill works and follow the requirements of the standstill. This includes livestock owners, transporters, produce agents, and those who work in abattoirs, saleyards and feedlots.

People who do not comply with the standstill may contribute to the disease spreading, increasing the time and cost required to contain and eradicate it. Delays in eradication of this disease would not only affect agriculture industries, but as seen in the United Kingdom’s FMD outbreak in 2001, would extend well beyond the farm gate with significant economic and environmental repercussions, including delays to the reopening of Australia’s livestock export markets.

Beginning new journeys or moving at-risk animals during a livestock standstill without approval is a breach of the Biosecurity Act 2015 and is illegal. Penalties for breaching movement restrictions prescribed in a biosecurity emergency order can include fines and imprisonment.

Authorised staff of the Department of Primary Industries, Local Lands Services, Transport for NSW, and NSW police officers all have powers to give directions that must be followed during a standstill. You must comply with all regulations, orders and instructions issued as part of a livestock standstill.

Saleyard management will implementtheir livestock standstill action plan.

  • Sales in progress will be stopped and attendees will be advised of their obligations
  • No livestock will be allowed on or off the saleyard (livestock will be fed and watered on site until the standstill is over)

All trucks must be emptied and appropriately washed down.

Susceptible animals that have already started their journey when the livestock standstill is called must be moved within four hours to one of the following locations:

  • the place where they were loaded or picked up from, or
  • a site as directed by an authorised officer, or
  • the intended destination of the susceptible animal, provided it is:
    • a farm, or
    • a feedlot, or
    • an abattoir where there is a prior agreement that the susceptible animals will be accepted and slaughtered within 24 hours of the time of arrival at the abattoir.

If the current trip cannot be completed as detailed above within four hours, transporters need to call DPI or LLS for instruction.

No new journeys can begin, unless under a special permit and no livestock can be loaded from saleyards or feedlots.

Records from the national livestock identification systems in 2017 show that on the maximum total number of animals leaving properties in NSW on a given day was approximately:

  • 37,000 cattle,
  • 198,000 sheep,
  • 23,000 goats, and
  • 7000 pigs.

Additional animals also enter NSW from other states.

NSW may permit healthy animals in transit to continue their journey into NSW if they can complete their journey within four hours.

Susceptible animals in transit may only move from NSW into another state or territory if the movement is permitted by the state or territory they are entering.

Susceptible animals that are on a travelling stock reserve when the standstill is called must be moved directly to the closest available water source on the travelling stock reserve, and held in the immediate vicinity of that water source.

The standstill is initially implemented for 72 hours; this allows time for diagnosis to be confirmed and for infected animals to be traced. The standstill may be extended depending on risk assessments. In a national standstill, states and territories may end the standstill at different times depending on the disease situation in their jurisdiction.

When the standstill order is revoked, other emergency zones may be declared to manage the risk of spread of FMD until the outbreak is confirmed to be eradicated.

If a livestock standstill is declared through a biosecurity emergency order in NSW, the NSW DPI will notify:

  • livestock industry bodies
  • livestock transport companies
  • abattoirs
  • saleyards
  • feedlots
  • producers
  • others in the livestock supply chain; and
  • the public

The requirements during the livestock standstill would be communicated using a range of channels, including the DPI website and industry networks via traditional media, social media, SMS messages, advertising and email.

If FMD were diagnosed in Australia, all cloven-hooved animals such as pigs, cattle, sheep, goats, deer, camelids (alpaca, llama, camels), bison and buffalo would be placed under a livestock standstill.

While a livestock standstill may cause short-term difficulties to industry and individual producers, these will be far outweighed by the medium and long-term benefits which include:

  • minimising the spread of disease,
  • allowing faster eradication of the disease, and
  • reducing the enormous social and economic costs to producers, the livestock industries, regional communities and the Australian economy.

Both government and industry need to have prepared and tested livestock standstill plans for their respective sectors so they are ready to quickly and effectively implement a livestock standstill in the event that one is called. This is particularly important for saleyard and abattoir operators, livestock transporters and show managers.

NSW DPI and LLS conduct regular workshops with industry to test government and industry preparedness for a standstill. Outcomes from these activities have informed improved standstill arrangements.

The AUSVETPLAN Enterprise Manual for Saleyards and Transport (PDF, 758 KB) has been developed to assist saleyard managers and livestock transporters to prepare for a possible EAD and to know how to respond if an outbreak occurs.

A guide is also available to help you understand your responsibilities and plan how to manage your business if there is an outbreak of an exotic disease or a livestock standstill is called. See https://www.farmbiosecurity.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/EAD-Risk-Management-Manual.pdf. Thirty minutes spent completing a plan could improve the resilience of your business if an outbreak occurs.

A livestock standstill is declared by government to limit the spread of FMD by stopping the movement of livestock. In NSW, this would constitute a biosecurity emergency order under the NSW Biosecurity Act 2015.

To date, Australia has only implemented one livestock standstill – the equine standstill (for horses and donkeys) during the equine influenza outbreak in 2007. This standstill is credited with reducing the cost and amount of time taken to eradicate the outbreak.

A livestock standstill could be called for other significant and highly contagious animal disease outbreaks. If the disease only affects a single species such as pigs, the movements of other stock would not be restricted.

Any vehicle that is carrying susceptible animals after a livestock standstill is called may be directed to take certain action to minimise disease spread.

Vehicles that have had contact with susceptible animals or their products must be washed down and appropriately decontaminated.

Healthy dairy cows may cross a public road to get to the milking area where:

  • there is no alternative access such as an under-passes, and
  • the cows are managed to minimise faecal contamination of the road (the mob is held for a period before crossing),
  • and the cows are walked directly across the road.