Nutrition & Animal Health

Australian sheep health project monitoring increases

Sheep Central, September 21, 2020

A RECORD number of sheep and lambs has been inspected in abattoirs under the National Sheep Health Monitoring Project.

Animal Health Australia has released data showing one-in-three of all sheep and lambs slaughtered in the nation last year were inspected for 19 key health and disease conditions.

The project is run by Animal Health Australia with the support of sheep industry organisations Sheep Producers Australia and WoolProducers Australia.

It is designed to capture information on health conditions which either affect the productivity of the sheep, or cause carcases to be trimmed during processing, which impact profitability for the producer.

The conditions monitored include arthritis, bladder worm, bruising, cheesy gland, cirrhosis, dog bites, fever/septicaemia, grass seeds, hydatids, knotty gut, liver fluke, lung worm, nephritis, pleurisy, pneumonia, rib fractures, sarcocystis, sheep measles, vaccine lesions and Ovine Johne’s Disease on request.

AHA’s senior manager biosecurity, Dr Rob Barwell, said the project continued to deliver value to the thousands of properties whose sheep have been inspected over the 12 months.

“In 2019 we monitored 9.57 million sheep, across 42,000 separate lines from 9600 individual Producer Identification Codes.

“According to Meat & Livestock Australia, around 29.2 million lambs and sheep were slaughtered in Australia in 2019 – this means our participating plants inspected around one in every three sheep processed last year,” Dr Barwell said.

The NSHMP monitors for 19 conditions automatically when sheep are consigned to participating abattoirs, plus ovine Johne’s disease on request by producers. Producers are then able to access the health data of sheep they have consigned to the abattoir through the Livestock Data Link portal – managed by Integrity Systems Company – using their National Livestock Identification System login details.

“The conditions we monitor for are endemic in many regions of Australia and can hit you in the hip pocket, though you might never see signs or symptoms on the farm,” Dr Barwell said.

“What this means in practice is that carcases and offal must be trimmed or condemned at the plant, meaning less money paid to you.

“By knowing when and where these conditions are impacting sheep, and feeding that information back to flock managers, we can improve liveweight gain and limit wastage, which is good for everyone,” he said.

“If you’ve been sending sheep to slaughter, the odds are good that you already have some data available,” Dr Barwell said.

“If we can all make a small difference on our own farms, it adds up to a big difference to the industry as a whole.”

A list of participating abattoirs can be found via the AHA website here. Producers can find out more about Livestock Data Link via Meat & Livestock Australia by clicking here.


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