SHEEP producers are being asked to flock to a new Facebook group to engage with each other and industry experts to improve on-farm biosecurity.
The new Facebook group, ‘The Flock Round-up’, has been established by Animal Health Australia to provide greater engagement with sheep meat and wool growers on biosecurity and animal health issues.
Creating the group is part of a broader engagement strategy being delivered out of the National Sheep Industry Biosecurity Strategy 2019-2024 (NSIBS).
The strategy was developed by Sheep Producers Australia and WoolProducers Australia to ensure the sheep industry remains stable and secure into the future, by encouraging sheep meat and wool growers to take ownership of their own on-farm biosecurity measures and recognise the important role they play.
Access to relevant and timely information is a key part of helping to protect the sheep meat and wool industries from endemic and exotic disease incursion and spread.
AHA extension manager, Emily Buddle said Facebook is part of many people’s daily lives.
“We have seen an increase in the number of producers using the platform to access relevant industry information.
“A Facebook group is an ideal place for producers to access information and share their own experiences when it comes to animal health and biosecurity,” she said.
AHA said it will share relevant content on the group page, with a focus on endemic disease prevention and on-farm biosecurity practices. It also encourages producers to ask questions and engage with other members of the group.
“The team at AHA will be on the other end of the line to help answer any specific questions that may arise,” Ms Buddle said.
Survey finds livestock producers prefer Facebook
AHA executive manager, biosecurity and animal health systems Dr Simon Humphrys said there has been an increase in the use of social media within the agricultural industry over the last few years and the Facebook group is a cost-effective way to engage with producers.
“In 2020, our market research indicated 55 percent of livestock producers are using some form of social media, with Facebook being the most popular at 46pc of livestock producers and 40pc of sheep producers.
“This means the proportion of the sheep industry using Facebook is roughly equal to the proportion of the general population,” he said.
“Given the most recent ABARES estimate of 24,000 sheep businesses in Australia, this indicates close to 10,000 sheep producers are using Facebook, to say nothing of their staff, their families or their supply chain networks.”
Dr Humphrys said Facebook was the chosen social media platform for the “The Flock Round-Up” as it offers the ability to create a Facebook group, rather than a page.
“The aim of the group is to provide an environment where the AHA extension team can facilitate discussion and drive conversation between producers around biosecurity.
“The Facebook group format develops a peer-group learning environment, as compared to a one-sided information delivery achieved by Twitter or a Facebook page.”
He said only 10pc of sheep producers surveyed in 2020 indicated that they use Twitter.
Dr Humphrys said the purpose of the Facebook group is for producers to contribute content and ask questions of their peers and the biosecurity experts.
“The group is not designed to be a one-way provision of information like current Facebook pages run by SPA, WPA and AHA.”
He said SPA and WPA will be able to share relevant content from the group to their social media networks.
“SPA and WPA are industry policy making and advocacy organisations and this initiative is aimed at spurring peer-to-peer learning and insights that producers can put into practice within their own enterprises.
“So although we’d expect WPA and SPA to cross promote great biosecurity and animal health practices, we wouldn’t be expecting their digital platforms to be the natural home of the conversation and practice change we hope to foster.”
The Flock Round-Up” Group will be mediated by the two NSIBS extensions managers – Dr Emily Buddle and Dr Sophie Hemley.
“Both Emily and Sophie have been engaged by AHA to roll-out the extension of the NSIBS project, as developed with SPA and WPA,” Dr Humphrys said.
AHA said SPA and WPA encourage all those involved in the sheep meat and wool industry to join the “The Flock Round-up” community. The group can be found at www.facebook.com/groups/theflockroundup