Wednesday, 18 July 2012
Thinking outside the square to increase impact
Livestock diseases have a big impact on countries and people in the Mekong. They stop livestock movement, cause the loss of productive livestock and restrict trade. Some diseases can also be transmitted to people.
Every year thousands of livestock are traded between Mekong countries, potentially spreading serious diseases. As an indication, in 2008-09 up to 15,000 head of cattle per month were reported to have transited from Thailand through southern Laos into Vietnam.
Although the trade on this route has now dwindled to a trickle — mainly because of changes in exchange rates that made the trade less profitable — animals still move in large numbers to different destinations. The common factor in this trade is the trader and the trader networks that facilitate it.
The livestock trade in the Mekong is a potential risk in the spread of serious diseases such as foot and mouth disease or classical swine fever. What can be done to manage that risk?
Breaking new ground
Since 2007, an ACIAR project has been investigating new ways of reducing the risk of spread of these diseases through tracking animal movement in the region.
The research in Cambodia and Laos broke new ground by targeting livestock traders in an effort to reduce the spread of diseases such as foot-and-mouth disease and classical swine fever.
The recently completed project conducted by Australian, Lao and Cambodia researchers provides a detailed understanding of livestock movement patterns in the region and their influence on the disease spread to help pinpoint high-risk areas.
‘It was an unconventional approach targeting the traders, among others, but they know a lot about the animals, where they are going, and where they’ve come from,” said Dr Doug Gray, ACIAR’s previous animal health research program manage.
The ACIAR research project identified a number of critical points along trade pathways where interventions might be made to reduce the risk of diseases spread.
'The traders are also an avenue through which new control programs can be directed because they’re in touch with the animals all the time. If they change their behaviour you can do a lot to prevent the disease spread,' said Dr Gray.
‘The information gained from the project will contribute significantly to the development of policy on animal movement in the region and to improved biosecurity practices and risk reduction. ACIAR is now funding a new project on disease surveillance and control based on this project’s findings,’ Dr Gray said.
Second Global Foot and Mouth Disease Conference held in Bangkok 27-29th June 2012, which attracted some 500 participants.
Information about the work was provided in the form of posters, booklets, digital stories, and the demonstration of a computerised livestock information and tracing system developed through the project.
Department of Agriculture and Food WA Senior Veterinary Officer, Dr Chris Hawkins, who has been leading the project said both developing and developed country representatives expressed an interest in the project outcomes.
'Many of the conference sessions reinforced the value of the sociological approaches used in the ACIAR project, which will help improve biosecurity in the South-East Asian region as well as help protect Australia’s livestock industries from these serious diseases,' said Dr Hawkins.
More information about the project and a range of other animal health research initiatives in the Mekong region were recently published in the ACIAR proceedings PR137 Animal biosecurity in the Mekong: future directions for research and development.
Dr Mike Nunn replaced Dr Doug Gray, as ACIAR Animal Health Research Program Manager on 30 June 2012.
Author: Mandy Gyles, Public Affairs Officer, ACIAR