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Pene drops in with bootcampers to share biosecurity message

SA biosecurity extension officer Pene Keynes, August 24, 2022

Livestock SA biosecurity extension officer Pene Keynes. Image – NFF.

LIVESTOCK SA biosecurity extension officer Pene Keynes highlighted on-farm biosecurity support, livestock traceability and supply chain compliance when she met Minister for Agriculture Murray Watt with other ag leadership bootcampers recently.

Pene was appointed in 2020 to deliver the Biosecurity Extension Project funded by PIRSA’s Red Meat and Wool Growth program. She is now the project manager. Pene grew up on a sheep and cattle property in Keyneton and has extensive industry experience in sheep, cattle and dairy enterprises, with a background in agricultural science and agribusiness.

Along with other participants in a three-day National Farmers Federation bootcamp on leadership, Pene met Minister Watt and other government and industry leaders in Canberra.

Minister for Agriculture Murray Watt, centre, with NFF leadership bootcampers, including Pene Keynes, third from left.

Biosecurity and traceability top of the agenda – Pene Keynes

Biosecurity and livestock traceability were front of mind when I met with the Minister for Agriculture Murray Watt after his inaugural National Press Club speech recently.

During our short meeting as part of a National Farmers Federation Leadership program in August, I had the chance to voice my support for the government’s long-term biosecurity investment plan as well as their commitment to roll out a national sheep electronic identification system.

Given that specific details of these plans are yet to be announced I asked the minister to consider the ways these investments will contribute tangible benefits resulting in stronger biosecurity for producers, which is a priority right now.

As a livestock biosecurity extension officer, this increased interest in biosecurity has resulted in an unprecedented demand for on-farm biosecurity planning support which has further highlighted a resourcing gap in available services.

Over the past month there has been mounting pressure on veterinarians, government biosecurity staff and industry to support producers’ biosecurity needs, which will escalate further in the face of an actual outbreak.

If an emergency animal disease does occur, on-farm biosecurity will be Australia’s greatest line of defence, so efforts and resources need to be reinforced now to ensure our producers are prepared. I hope the minister’s investments and plans ensure success.

I also used the opportunity to commend Minister Watt on his party’s commitment to roll out a national electronic identification (EID) system for sheep and goats.

Efficient and effective traceability will be critical in an emergency animal disease response and we know that our current small stock visual mob-based system has limitations that will be vastly improved by the employment of EID tag technology.

I reminded the minister that a priority for industry and governments should also be supply chain compliance with the current traceability system, which requires resources and support, particularly in the period until a sheep EID system is delivered.

Estimations are that a sheep EID system will take some years to implement, and as an industry we need to be prepared to trace livestock quickly within the systems we have.

At the heart of all the improvements that biosecurity in Australia needs is an increase in on-ground resources, and government investments should reflect this.

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