Beating footrot in NSW a cause for celebration

Sheep experts from around Australia and abroad gather today at Camden - the birthplace of the Australian wool industry - to celebrate the success of the NSW Footrot Strategic Plan, NSW Minister for Primary Industries, Ian Macdonald, said.

A two day NSW Footrot Symposium begins this morning at Elizabeth Macarthur Agricultural Institute to reflect on the program’s success over the last twenty years in progressively eradicating the debilitating bacterial infection of sheep.

"The NSW Footrot Strategic Plan is widely recognised as one of the most successful disease control programs undertaken by the sheep industry in Australia," Minister Macdonald said.

"When the program began in 1988 footrot cost the sheep industry more than $40 million a year, now it is less than $700,000.

"In 1991 15% of sheep flocks in this State were infected with virulent footrot and in some wetter areas up to 70% of flocks were infected.

"The infection rate in NSW has now dropped to just 0.11% this year and it continues to fall.

"Our goal is to have the whole State declared a protected area for footrot within the next six months."

Minister Macdonald said the Camden symposium was an opportunity to celebrate the success of NSW and to share this State’s experience with others still battling high infection rates of virulent footrot.

"Victoria and Tasmania have been unable to make significant progress in controlling footrot, with Victorian infection rates of up to 20% are still common in some western grazing areas," Minister Macdonald said.

"A United Kingdom veterinarian planning a UK footrot control program will be attending to learn from our experience."

Department of Primary Industries (DPI) representative on the NSW Footrot Steering Committee, John Seaman, said the key to the success of the program has been strong support from the State’s sheep industry in cooperating with Rural Lands Protection Boards and NSW DPI to eradicate virulent footrot.

"Initially the emphasis was on providing sound advice on treating and culling infected sheep, then as infection rates declined regulation became more important in preventing spread," Mr Seaman said.

"Producers with footrot infected sheep must now undertake a control program and their sheep can only be sold for slaughter."

The NSW Footrot Steering Committee oversees progress of the eradication program and has input into its’ direction.

Industry stakeholders represented on the Footrot Steering Committee:

  • NSW Department of Primary Industries
  • Rural Lands Protection Boards
  • NSW Farmers’ Association
  • Australian Veterinary Association
  • University of Sydney
  • NSW Stud Merino Breeders Association

Further reading

Footrot in sheep and goats