Farmers and graziers across NSW are being urged to observe their cattle for signs of lumps, drooling and what can only be described as the "man-flu".
Inverell-based veterinarian Andrew Biddle was among a Local Land Services team raising awareness about Foot and Mouth and Lumpy Skin diseases at a workshop attended by about 20 people in Armidale on Wednesday.
It is one of a series of workshops being held statewide, including at Moree on Thursday and Inverell next Wednesday.
Australia does not have any cases of FMD or Lumpy Skin, but Mr Biddle said it was important to detect early signs so a possible outbreak could be quickly contained.
"Lumpy skin often begins as raised lumps that then can become a pussy nodule," Mr Biddle said.
"But they could also be running a high temperature, standing around looking miserable and could look like they've got the man flu."
Cattle with FMD usually have blisters that become erosions on the mouth or tongue, making it difficult for them to swallow so saliva starts dripping. It becomes painful when the disease transfers to their hooves so that they don't want to walk.
Authorities are urging farmers and graziers to contact Local Land Services even if they are unsure if the symptoms showing in their animal is linked to the disease.
In the event a case of FMD or Lumpy Skin is detected, a 'livestock standstill' would be enforced.
Potential carriers of the disease such as sheep, cattle, pigs, goats, deer and alpacas would be stopped in their tracks, Mr Biddle said.
"So if they're at home, they stay at home. If they're at sale yards, they stay at sale yards," Mr Biddle said.
"If they're at an abattoir, they stay at the abattoir. If they're on the road, then they either go back to where they came from, to where they were meant to have gone or to a depot where they can be looked after."
Mr Biddle said this type of response would enable authorities to find the source of the FMD or Lumpy Skin outbreak and eradicate it with a complex set of measures that could include a captive bolt gun.
Vaccines for FMD Australia has stored in France, as part of an agreement with a pharmaceutical company there, would be injected into animals on the perimeter of an outbreak to stop the disease.
"We have a supply of the vaccine sitting there all the time. And we have a contract with the suppliers that if we need it, they'll make more for us," Mr Biddle said.
"It's a short lasting immunity. So it's a vaccination as a part of eradication. It's not a vaccination (that could be used) as a preventative."
Meanwhile, Australia is working to manufacture synthetic versions of the FMD and Lumpy Skin vaccines as part of a $65 million NSW government investment to eradicate the animal diseases, announced on Monday.
Mr Biddle said the spread of FMD is so rapid that it can move via droplets on an animal's breath which can also happen while grooming each other or rubbing noses.
"One of the likely pathways for Foot and Mouth Disease to enter Australia is through illegally imported meat products," Mr Biddle said.
"And the link between illegally imported meat products and our livestock is via pigs."
The experienced NSW-based veterinarian has advised people to feed their pigs proper pig food or vegetables from a supplier not table scraps.
"And make sure that your rubbish tips are fenced off so that pigs can't get in," he said.
"If you do those sorts of things then you break the potential for the virus to get from food into animals, because cattle, sheep and so on, don't eat meat, they eat grass.
"But pigs eat anything. So they're the potential pathway."
The next FMD and Lumpy Skin information session to follow in the New England region will be at the Moree Services Club on Thursday and Inverell RSM Club next Wednesday.
Report anything suspicious in animals by calling 1800 675 888.
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