Significant Disease Investigation (SDI) program
On this page:
- Subsidies available
- Significant equine disease investigation scheme
- Sudden death investigations: Special arrangements for anthrax exclusion testing
- Validation of anthrax ICT kit for sheep project
- What is a significant disease?
- Procedure for undertaking significant disease investigations
- Conditions of payment
- Further information
Victoria is fortunate to be free of most of the serious diseases that affect animals in other parts of the world.
Despite this fact, ongoing surveillance is important in order to ensure the early detection of animal diseases that might impact on trade, regional or national productivity, public health, or biodiversity.
The Victorian Significant Disease Investigation (SDI) Program aims to boost Victoria's capacity for the early detection of such diseases in livestock and wildlife by increasing the participation of veterinary practitioners and subsidising the cost of investigating significant diseases.
Subsidies available for veterinarians and livestock producers
Subsidies are available from Agriculture Victoria for the initial field investigation, including clinical and post-mortem evaluation, laboratory testing and a follow-up investigation of significant disease events in livestock and free-living wildlife. Livestock includes ruminants, horses, pigs and poultry.
Eligible veterinary practitioners are those in private veterinary practice, zoos or wildlife parks.
Disease investigation is often hampered by factors such as reduced economic value of livestock and remote location of farms.
To assist with overcoming this, a subsidy is also available for cattle, sheep, goat and pig owners to reduce their costs when they engage a veterinary practitioner to undertake a significant disease investigation.
Subsidies for veterinary practitioners
- Undertaking and reporting the initial disease investigation to Agriculture Victoria – $300 plus GST
- Undertaking and reporting a follow-up investigation to Agriculture Victoria – $300 plus GST, (This includes follow up blood testing where convalescent sera is required to confirm a diagnosis e.g. arboviral diseases such as Ross River Virus)
- Laboratory testing costs – up to $500 (not payable to the veterinary practitioner).
Subsidies for cattle, sheep, goat and pig producers
A subsidy provided by the Victorian livestock industry of up to $200 for cattle, sheep, goat and pig producers for the engagement of a veterinary practitioner to undertake a significant disease investigation is available.
This subsidy is for the veterinarian's consultation, disease investigation (e.g. necropsy) and travel costs, excluding medications, and is provided in the form of a deduction from the practitioner's fee.
The practitioner will then be reimbursed by the department. The subsidy is only applicable for significant disease investigations authorised by Agriculture Victoria following application from a veterinarian.
The number of such subsidies paid is subject to an annual cap.
Significant equine disease investigation scheme
The Significant Equine Disease Investigation Scheme (SEDIS) started in 2018 to better understand the causes of three common syndromes in Victorian horses; respiratory disease, abortion and neurological disease.
The project was to continue until June 2020 but due to greater than expected participation the funds allocated to the project have been completely expended.
Since the project started 98 horses, in 68 separate case events have undergone testing and no exotic or emergency diseases have been detected.
Of particular interest was the detection of Cryptococcus spp in one horse with neurological presenting signs and the first diagnosis in Victoria of an outbreak of equine abortions due to Chlamydia psittaci, an important zoonotic disease agent.
Although this project is finished the project team are keen to maintain the momentum generated by the SEDIS program and we encourage the submission of equine samples under the Victorian Significant Disease Investigation (SDI) program instead.
The criteria for eligibility of investigations under the SDI program differs from the SEDIS project so please contact your local Agriculture Victoria Animal Health and Welfare staff who will be able to advise you.
Sudden death investigations: Special arrangements for anthrax exclusion testing
Anthrax exclusion testing should be carried out on all sudden, unexplained deaths of cattle, sheep and other susceptible livestock.
Field testing of cattle and sheep carcases can be carried out using a hand held immunochromatographic test (ICT). Agriculture Victoria Animal Health and Welfare (AHW) staff can provide training to any veterinarians in your practice on use of the kits and will provide ICT kits to your practice at no cost.
Please contact your local Agriculture Victoria AHW staff if you need ICT kits or to organise refresher training of existing users or training for new ICT kit users.
To encourage anthrax exclusion testing, particularly in areas of Victoria with a history of anthrax, the department will pay private practitioners $200 plus GST for a basic anthrax exclusion in cattle and sheep.
Note: The department currently has an additional project for anthrax testing in sheep.
More information on the Validation of anthrax ICT kit for sheep project can be found below.
To be eligible for this payment, a practitioner must:
- notify Agriculture Victoria of the suspect case,
- perform an ICT and
- report the summary findings to the local Agriculture Victoria District Veterinary Officer (DVO) using a Record of Disease Event form.
Your DVO will advise you during the investigation whether further samples are required and the appropriate method for dispatch of samples.
Note that the SDI Program producer subsidy does not apply for basic anthrax exclusion testing.
Where anthrax is suspected, the department must be notified immediately and the carcass should remain undisturbed and unopened at the death site until anthrax is ruled out.
To encourage this, cattle producers are eligible for an industry-funded incentive payment of $1,000 following a positive diagnosis of anthrax if the cattle carcass has not been moved from the death site and the animal is found to be the first anthrax case associated with an outbreak (i.e. only one payment for an outbreak where multiple farms are affected).
Where anthrax is not suspected following a negative ICT result and a further investigation of the cause of death is undertaken by the practitioner (including necropsy), the investigation may be eligible for other subsidies as described on this page.
Validation of anthrax ICT kit for sheep project
The Victorian sheep and goat industries have provided funding to the department to undertake a project to determine the sensitivity and specificity of the immunochromatographic test (ICT) for anthrax when used in sheep.
The ICT kit has proved to be a reliable method for the rapid determination of the anthrax status of cattle and sheep that have died suddenly. The test kit has been validated for use in cattle, however similar work is required in sheep.
Within the ICT project, the payment for anthrax exclusion testing in sheep with unexplained sudden death will be $300 (+GST) per property.
Please note: This is higher than, and is instead of, the general payment of $200.
Up to 10 sheep that have experienced sudden death can be sampled from the same property. Only carcasses that are less than 48 hours old can be sampled. Sampling of multiple carcasses per investigation is strongly encouraged.
To be eligible for the $300 payment, in addition to the general requirements specified above, private veterinarians are also required to submit an EDTA blood sample and the used ICT kit to the department's AgriBio Bundoora veterinary laboratory for confirmatory testing.
The samples should be submitted using the project specific RODE-Laboratory submission form available below.
Where anthrax is not suspected following a negative ICT result and a further investigation of the cause of death is undertaken by the practitioner (including necropsy), the investigation may be eligible for other subsidies following approval by your District Veterinary Officer.
The project will continue until 31 March 2020.
For more information, please see these documents:
What is a significant disease?
To be considered 'significant', one or more of the following criteria must be met for the disease event:
- An unusual or atypical manifestation of disease, including high morbidity, mortality and/or rate of spread.
- An initial investigation fails to establish a diagnosis, including when veterinary treatment does not produce the expected response;
- There are findings suggesting a possible effect on trade, public health, biodiversity or the viability of a farm, industry or region, excluding events where there is a genuine suspicion of an emergency animal disease.
- Where there is a genuine suspicion of an exotic or emergency animal disease, the department will lead the disease investigation and cover the cost of the investigation.
If you suspect an exotic or emergency animal disease, immediately contact your local Agriculture Animal Health and Welfare office or the all-hours Disease Watch Hotline 1800 675 888.
Procedure for undertaking significant disease investigations
Where possible, practitioners should seek authorisation from their local Agriculture Victoria District Veterinary Officer (DVO) prior to or at the time of undertaking the field investigation.
If the DVO cannot be contacted, authorisation may be sought from the Agriculture Victoria Senior Veterinary Officer (SVO) for the practitioner's geographical region.
Although it may be impractical to seek authorisation prior to or at the time of the on-farm investigation, authorisation for the investigation must be sought prior to the submission of laboratory samples.
Specimens for laboratory testing must be submitted to:
Veterinary Diagnostics Services laboratory – AgriBio, Bundoora
Phone: 9032 7515
All laboratory submissions must be accompanied with an interim Record of Disease Event (RODE) form. Unless the RODE is provided with the laboratory submission, the submitting veterinary practice will be responsible for the cost of diagnostic testing.
The Duty Pathologist will make a determination of the type and sequence of testing.
Note that any additional testing not indicated for the investigation, but requested by the submitter, will be completed on a fee-for-service basis by prior agreement with the submitter.
A final typewritten RODE is to be provided promptly to the approving DVO following the completion of the investigation.
For follow-up investigations, authorisation must be provided by the department and a separate RODE is to be provided.
Conditions of payment
Payment for investigations to veterinary practitioners is conditional upon the following:
Authorisation by Agriculture Victoria for the investigation.
Samples and interim RODE submitted to the Veterinary Diagnotic Services – AgriBio.
The completed investigation reported on a typewritten RODE, along with copies of any submission form(s) and laboratory reports, to the approving DVO.
If a cattle, sheep, goat or pig producer subsidy is being claimed, a copy of the veterinary practice's tax invoice to the producer must be provided to the approving DVO, showing the deduction of up to $200.
An itemised tax invoice for $300 plus GST for the RODE, and if eligible, up to $200 plus GST for the producer subsidy, is provided by the veterinary practice to the approving DVO with the above mentioned documentation.
The tax invoice should include the producer's name, PIC and a comment that it relates to a significant disease investigation, and be issued within 60 days of the investigation being completed.
For more information about the subsidies for significant disease investigations and reporting, contact our Animal Health and Welfare staff at your nearest Agriculture Victoria office or our Customer Service Centre on 136 186.
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