Livestock standstill

In the event of a foot-and-mouth disease detection anywhere in Australia, authorities will implement a national livestock standstill, meaning movement of any livestock anywhere in Australia would be prohibited for a minimum of 72 hours.

In Victoria, this would be administered through a Control Order under the Livestock Disease Control Act 1994.

If a livestock standstill is announced, everyone must follow the rules. Penalties for breaching movement restrictions will apply.

Purpose of a livestock standstill

A livestock standstill limits the spread of an emergency animal disease by stopping the movement of live animals (only species that are susceptible to foot-and-mouth disease).

While a livestock standstill may cause short-term difficulties to industry and individual producers, these will be far outweighed by the medium and long-term benefits which include:

  • minimising the spread of disease
  • allowing faster eradication of the disease and
  • reducing the enormous social and economic costs to producers, the livestock industries, regional communities and the Australian economy.

The support of every member of the livestock industries is required for a livestock standstill to be effective. Everyone in the livestock supply chain needs to understand how a livestock standstill works and follow the requirements of the standstill. This includes livestock owners, transporters, stock agents, and those who work in abattoirs, saleyards and feedlots.

What happens in a livestock standstill?

During a livestock standstill, new movements of any animals at risk of infection is prohibited unless a livestock movement permit has been issued by an Inspector of Livestock – even if animals don’t look sick or FMD hasn’t been detected in your area.

Livestock transport vehicles with livestock already loaded and in transit within Victoria may continue their journey in Victoria without a permit provided that:

  • the journey began and will end within Victoria,
  • the journey began in another state or territory but was in Victoria when the livestock standstill was declared,
  • the journey can be completed within four hours of when the livestock standstill was declared, and
  • the destination is either another farm, a feedlot, an abattoir, saleyard, knackery or you are returning livestock to their place of pick-up or origin.

All livestock at saleyards must be secured. Livestock may be moved within a saleyard, but must not be removed, except under permit issued by an Inspector of Livestock.

Managers of saleyards, abattoirs and knackeries remain responsible for the operations within the saleyard facility and the overall welfare of the livestock. Operators/managers retain the duty of care for the animals and must make provision to continue to provide appropriate feed, water, and shelter for their livestock. In transit, the transporter is responsible for the welfare of the animals.

Livestock vehicles (empty) may leave a saleyard premises only after wash-down.

People and the drivers of empty livestock vehicles may leave the premises once they have been advised by the facility manager or Agriculture Victoria on-site staff of appropriate disinfection practices to undertake before or when they return home.

Animals already on the way to slaughter when the standstill is declared may continue to the relevant processing facility provided that the journey began and will end in Victoria and can be completed within 4 hours. Animals already at a slaughterhouse would continue to be slaughtered.

Livestock welfare will remain a priority, and animal owners are not permitted to abandon livestock or leave livestock loaded on a vehicle indefinitely. You will still have a duty of care to ensure the animals are delivered and unloaded at an appropriate approved destination.

Transporters carrying livestock that cannot complete the journey within the required criteria (within 4 hours and within Victoria) must pull over when safe to do so, and phone their transport company supervisor or the Victorian Emergency Hotline on 1800 226 226 for further instructions and to apply for a livestock movement permit.

People who do not comply with the standstill requirements may be contributing to the spread of disease and increasing the time and cost required to contain and eradicate it. Moving at-risk animals during a livestock standstill is a breach of the Livestock Disease Control Act 1994 and penalties will apply.

Additional movement restrictions may apply to livestock products. In the case of an FMD outbreak, this may include wool and dairy products.

The fine for moving livestock in a Control Area (which would apply to a standstill) is 60 penalty units as a minimum ($11,095.20), and could be 240 penalty units ($44,380.80), 24 months imprisonment, or both. The higher penalty applies when the person knows or has reason to believe that a Control Area is in place.

How can saleyards and livestock transporters prepare for a livestock standstill?

There are important actions saleyards and livestock transporter should take to prepare for a livestock standstill, even before an outbreak has occurred.

As a saleyard owner or livestock transporter, it is your responsibility to:

  • Maintain accurate recording systems that enable rapid tracing of ownership and stock movements, and be prepared to make them available at short notice if requested by an authorised officer from under the Livestock Disease Control Act.
  • Prepare and maintain a map of the saleyards and surrounds, indicating entry/exit points for livestock people and drainage systems.
  • Consider and plan for how vehicle washing and decontamination can be managed on the property in a livestock standstill arrangement.
  • Ensure appropriate Personal Protective Equipment and disinfectant is stored on site .
  • Prepare and maintain a plan for managing in a National Livestock Standstill for a period of time. This includes ensuring the animals have access to adequate feed, water and space.

You must be aware of:

  • The likely presenting signs for FMD.
  • Likely impacts of an EAD incident on the operation of the business.
  • Who to contact in the event of an EAD incident.
  • The importance of cooperating with lead authorities to implement appropriate legal arrangements under the Livestock Disease Control Act, including quarantine of livestock and vehicles.
  • The principles of movement control.
  • The concepts of Restricted Areas and Control Areas and their specific impact.
  • The importance of public perceptions about risk.

The AUSVETPLAN Enterprise Manual for Saleyards and Transport has been developed to assist saleyard managers and livestock transporters to prepare for a possible emergency animal disease and to know how to respond if an outbreak occurs.

Preparing your business to survive: Risk management planning for an emergency animal disease outbreak on the Farm Biosecurity website has guidance on managing a business if a livestock standstill is called.  Thirty minutes spent completing a plan could improve the resilience of your business if an outbreak occurs.

How would people be notified of a national livestock standstill?

A national livestock standstill would be considered a national emergency and announced through a range of media and other communication channels. Government agencies, livestock industries and other agricultural organisations would also provide information about the standstill directly to their members and stakeholders.

Depending on the disease situation, the standstill may be extended beyond the initial 72 hours. If a decision is made to lift the national livestock standstill, individual states and territories may choose to maintain the standstill in their jurisdiction.

Information and announcements for all emergency animal disease situations are published on the Outbreak website.

Can dairy cows cross the road to be milked during a standstill?

Healthy dairy cows may cross a public road to get to the milking area where:

  • there is no alternative access such as an underpass
  • the responsible road authority (VicRoads/local council) has previously provided permission/permit
  • the cows are managed to minimise faecal contamination of the road (the mob is held for a period before crossing) and
  • the cows are walked directly across the road.

Has a livestock standstill ever been declared in Australia?

To date, Australia has only implemented one livestock standstill – the equine standstill (for horses and donkeys) during the equine influenza outbreak in 2007. This standstill is credited with reducing the cost and amount of time taken to eradicate the outbreak.

Page last updated: 15 Feb 2023