Biosecurity measures for small landholders

Many Victorians enjoy the lifestyle benefits of owning acreage, keeping animals and producing their own food. Small landholders and hobby farmers range from people with livestock species as pets to those who sell or trade commercially.

It is important that all livestock owners - small, new, established, and commercial - take their biosecurity responsibilities seriously. Good biosecurity doesn’t just protect your own livestock and enterprise from pests and diseases, but also helps to protect your neighbour’s livestock and the broader livestock industry.

This page provides some basic information to help you do just that.

What is biosecurity?

Biosecurity refers to measures that limit the likelihood of introducing and spreading diseases, pests and weeds.

Biosecurity measures can be very simple, are often low cost and can become part of a regular routine.

Property or farm biosecurity

Farm biosecurity is about preventing the spread of diseases, pests and weeds. Simple actions you can take on your property now will protect your livestock if there is a disease incursion, such as foot-and-mouth disease.

New or sick animals

  • Inspect new stock to ensure they are healthy.
  • Isolate new stock and monitor them for signs of disease.
  • Where possible, have a quarantine paddock for sick animals located away from boundary fences.

Visitors, vehicles and equipment

  • Limit visitor entry points to your property.
  • Use gate/fence signage requesting visitors to report their arrival.
  • Direct visitors to designated parking areas that are away from paddocks and/or animal facilities.
  • Prohibit visitors from entering paddocks and touching or feeding livestock.
  • Wash out livestock trucks/trailers between loads – removing any manure, feed/straw etc. and clean the tyres.
  • Wash and disinfect animal handling equipment.

Hygiene

  • Wash and disinfect your hands before and after handling livestock.
  • Wear clean clothes and boots if you are moving between properties.

Record keeping

Good record keeping is the key to traceability. Keeping records of purchases, sales and movement of livestock is vital for us to know where our animals have been so we can help contain and control disease.

Records of visitors or worker movements can be kept using a register, with people who may be moving between farms and state/territories being identified by photo ID, driver’s licence or passport details.

Property idenfication codes

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A PIC is an eight-character alpha-numeric code allocated by Agriculture Victoria and used to identify land where livestock are kept and contact information relating to who cares for or owns the livestock.

It forms an important part of the livestock traceability system and allows Agriculture Victoria to contact landowners in the event of an emergency animal disease incursion, to trace livestock movements and to quickly determine the origin and spread of disease.

You must have a PIC for the properties on which you graze or keep the following livestock:

  • one or more cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, alpaca, llamas, deer, horses, camels
  • more than 50 poultry (i.e. domesticated fowl, chickens, ducks, geese, turkey, guinea fowl, pigeons, quail or pheasants)
  • 10 emus or 10 ostriches.

You do not need to own the land to have a PIC – leased blocks or agistment properties can have a PIC allocated and if there is more than one enterprise operating on a parcel of land then the parcel of land can have more than one PIC.

Different blocks of land in the same locality or adjoining shire, managed as the one enterprise can have the same PIC.

There is no cost to apply for or receive a PIC in Victoria.

Use our Online PIC service to apply for a PIC. You can also use the service to update your existing PIC details.

Alternatively, complete and send an application form:

Or call the PIC Helpline on 1800 678 779.

Cattle, sheep and goats

All cattle, sheep and goats must be identified with a National Livestock Identification System (NLIS) tag before leaving a property. These are for the identification and traceability of all cattle, sheep and goats, including those kept as pets.

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There are two types of tags available for cattle, sheep and goats.

  1. NLIS breeder tags are white for cattle and for sheep and goats they are colour-coded to match the sheep/goat industries year of birth tag colour system. Breeder tags are used to permanently identify livestock before they leave their property of birth.
  2. NLIS post breeder tags are orange for cattle and pink for sheep and goats. They are used to permanently identify introduced livestock, not already identified with an electronic tag, or that have lost their original tag.

It is very important that the correct NLIS tag is used, if not it will falsely indicate the life history of an animal.

  • NLIS (Cattle) Breeder and Post-breeder devices must be attached to the animals right (offside) ear.
  • NLIS (Sheep) devices can be placed in either the right or left ear
  • Never attach a second electronic NLIS tag if an electronic NLIS tag is already present.
  • Breeder and Post-breeder tags purchased for use on one property must not be applied to livestock located on another property.
  • Breeder and Post-breeder tags must not be sold, given away or reused.
  • NLIS tags must not be removed.
  • NLIS tags are species specific and must not be used to identify another species.

Order NLIS Tags from Agriculture Victoria.

Call our NLIS helpline on 1800 678 779 between 9am and 4.30pm Monday to Friday, submit a paper application form or order online.

Pigs

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Pigs must be identified before being moved off a property (except where change of PIC does not occur) with either a tag or tattoo brand depending on their body weight. This includes pigs being kept as pets and given away.

  • Less than 25kg — must be tagged
  • More than 25kg — must be tattooed.

Pig Pass is the national tracking database of pigs.

Read more about pig identification.

Prohibited pig feed (or swill) is the act of feeding food scraps or food waste that contains meat, or which has been in contact with meat to pigs.

The feeding of prohibited pig feed to pigs is banned in Australia, as it has been shown to cause outbreaks of serious animal diseases.

Diseases that can be spread by feeding food waste containing mammalian meat and imported dairy products to pigs include foot-and-mouth disease, African Swine Fever and Classical Swine Fever

Food that cannot be fed to pigs include:

  • meat or meat products
  • imported dairy products
  • salad and vegetables that has been served with meat
  • butcher's shop waste
  • pies, pasties, deli foods — including bacon, cheese (from overseas) and salads that contain meat.

Pigs can be fed:

  • commercially prepared pig rations
  • grain
  • fruit and vegetable waste from markets
  • bread that does not contain, and has not been in contact with any meat material (for example bacon or ham)
  • milk
  • milk product or by-products that originate from a factory or milk processing premises (licensed under the Dairy Act 2000).

For more information, visit Feeding prohibited pig feed

Don’t introduce disease through feed

Producing or selling swill feed – the feeding of any food waste to pigs – is illegal across Australia. This practice is high risk and a pathway for FMD or African swine fever (ASF) to infect Australian livestock.

Emergency animal diseases

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The most significant risk of entry of FMD into Australia is through illegal entry of meat and dairy products infected with the FMD virus and subsequent illegal feeding of these products (swill) to pigs.

People can also carry the virus on themselves, on contaminated boots, hands and clothing and potentially transmit disease between animals. This is important as many people will keep susceptible animals of their own.

Good hygiene, appropriate use and decontamination of PPE and thoroughly washing/disinfecting yourself and any materials/vehicles before leaving an infected property will protect you from spreading the virus to other people or animals.

Biosecurity is everyone’s role and requires responsible actions by everyone. We all need to help protect our agriculture, our economy and our unique natural environment.

It’s not enough to rely on quarantine inspections to stop potential pests and disease threats at our borders. When buying food and other goods online, always consider where they are coming from and whether they will meet biosecurity requirements before ordering them.

All visitors to Australia should also play their part in helping to keep FMD and other diseases and pests out of Australia. Any visitors to countries where FMD is present, and not just Indonesia, must wash their footwear before departing and also wash clothes that may have been in contact with livestock or livestock products.

Livestock owners should ensure that visitors clean their boots and wear clean clothing before allowing them onto your property. Minimise the level of contact visitors have with livestock. Wash down equipment and vehicles before leaving any property where livestock are kept.

If a visitor has been to a country where FMD is present, they should not enter a farm in Australia for at least 7 days.

Implement practical biosecurity steps on your property to prevent your livestock from contracting unusual or emergency animal disease, including foot-and-mouth and lumpy skin disease.

Foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) is a highly contagious viral disease of livestock, affecting cloven-hoofed animals including cattle, buffalo, pigs, sheep, goats, deer, camels, alpacas and llamas.

FMD causes fever followed by the development of blisters in the mouth and on the feet. It is generally not lethal to adult animals, but it can kill young animals and cause serious production losses.

FMD spreads rapidly between susceptible animals.

Virus is excreted in the breath, saliva, mucus, milk and faeces of infected animals. Animals can transmit the disease for up to four days before signs of the disease appear. Animals can become infected through inhalation, ingestion and direct contact.

The disease spreads most commonly through the movement of infected animals. In sheep the symptoms can be absent or very mild, and infected sheep can be an important source of infection.

The virus is also extremely transmissible on materials. It can be moved from one area to another on vehicles and other goods (including clothing and footwear).

Australia has been free of FMD for over 100 years.

FMD can cause serious production losses and is a major constraint to international trade in livestock and livestock products.

An outbreak of FMD would have major impact on Australia’s livestock industries, affecting the economy and threatening jobs. It would lead to a loss in production of meat and milk, cessation of trade and may require the slaughter of many animals in order to control the disease.

FMD is present in parts  of Asia,  a  large part  of  Africa and the Middle East. In May 2022, an outbreak of FMD was reported in cattle in Indonesia and has since spread to Bali.

Lumpy skin disease (LSD) is a devastating disease of cattle and buffalo caused by a capripox virus.

Learn more about LSD here or complete our Lumpy Skin Disease Awareness biosecurity course.

Livestock owners should remain vigilant for any signs of disease and contact their veterinarian Information on important animal diseases can be found at Important Animal Diseases.

Signs that could indicate an emergency animal disease include:

  • High rate of death or sickness in animals
  • Sudden death
  • Drop in production of milk yield or egg production
  • Rapid spread of disease through a flock or herd
  • Blisters, erosions or ulcers in their mouth, on or around the muzzle, feet, udder or teats
  • Excessive nasal discharge or salivation
  • Unusual nervous signs such as tremors, uncharacteristic aggression or paralysis
  • Any unusual disease symptoms
  • Disease affecting multiple species

If you notice anything unusual please notify Agriculture Victoria immediately on the Emergency Animal Disease Watch Hotline 1800 675 888 or contact your local veterinarian or Agriculture Victoria Animal Health and Welfare staff.

Biosecurity planning

A farm biosecurity plan is an essential tool for landholders who want to prevent, eliminate, and minimise biosecurity risks on-farm.

It is also a requirement for producers as members of the Livestock Production Assurance (LPA) program.

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The Animal Health Australia (AHA) Better On-farm Biosecurity page includes downloadable on-farm biosecurity plan templates along with a range of other biosecurity information and links.

Visit AHA Better On-farm Biosecurity page

Biosecurity checklist

Here is a checklist you can follow to ensure you are implementing good biosecurity measures on your property:

Checklist item Useful linksNotes

Register for or ensure your Property Identification Code (PIC) details are up-to-date

Property Identification Code

 

Do not permit visitors onto your farm if they have been in a foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) infected country within the last seven days.

  

Have a biosecurity plan. A biosecurity plan should, as a minimum, promote good hygiene practices and control the movement of livestock, people and equipment onto your property.

For more information on creating a biosecurity plan for your farm, including a plan template, visit Animal Health Australia

 
Consider documenting vehicle movements onto your property, such as fodder deliveries and milk pick-ups, agricultural contractors.   

Use biosecurity signage at farm entry and exit points with clear instructions. Consider implementing a sign-in processes and restricting access to certain parts of your property.

Check out Farm Biosecurity for example gate signs.

 

Have procedures, facilities and equipment in place for washing and disinfecting shoes and clothing and any other equipment and vehicles that enter your property.

  

If you are working on a property and are in contact with sick animals, change your clothing and wash footwear after contact to avoid infecting other healthy animals.

  

Keep up-to-date and timely records of livestock movements on and off your property. This includes completing a National Vendor Declaration and recording these movements in the NLIS database for cattle, sheep and goats and PigPass for pigs.

NLIS database

PigPass

 

When new livestock arrive on your property, isolate them and monitor closely for any signs of sickness for up to two weeks

  

Do not feed or supply pigs with meat, meat products or any food that has been served on the same plate or has come into contact with meat.

Prohibited pig feed

 
Understand the signs of disease in different types of livestock.   
FMD is a notifiable exotic disease and any suspected cases must be reported to Agriculture Victoria immediately.

Emergency Animal Disease Watch Hotline 1800 675 888

As a small landholder, what are my responsibilities for owning or keeping livestock?

As the owner or person in charge of the livestock you are responsible for ensuring the animal health and welfare needs of your stock are met.

This includes ensuring they are regularly inspected, have sufficient and appropriate feed and water, appropriate husbandry (drenching, shearing, breeding etc) and are protected from the extremes of weather.

You are also responsible for the health of your livestock and need to inspect and monitor for disease, injury or other problems and provide timely and appropriate treatment.

As a minimum, you should make sure you:

  • have appropriate space (paddock/s), yards and shelter required for the type of animal/s
  • provide a clean and sufficient daily water supply
  • provide sufficient feed to meet the nutritional requirements of your stock. Requirements vary with stock type, age, sex and class of stock.  Pregnant and lactating animals have higher nutritional requirements than dry stock.
  • regularly inspect your stock for disease or injury and seek advice from your veterinarian.
  • undertake husbandry measures appropriate to the type of stock – for example shearing, drenching and appropriate management of breeding animals.

For further information the VFF Stock Sense booklets are a great resource .

Page last updated: 22 Sep 2022