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• Indonesian foot and mouth disease vaccination program finally gaining momentum.

• FMD risk to Australia is declining due to a combination of increasing vaccine coverage and heightened biosecurity at Australian entry points.

INDONESIA SLAUGHTER STEERS $5.15KG LIVE WEIGHT (RP10,300 = $1AUD) Slaughter cattle prices continue to fluctuate wildly across Indonesia but healthy Brahman cross cattle exfeedlots are still selling in West Java markets at similar rates to last month at an average of around Rp53,000kg live weight. Huge discounts are placed on infected cattle for emergency slaughter, while the best carcases from healthy cattle can still attract a large premium.

The major news is that the national foot and mouth disease vaccination program is finally gaining serious momentum with the official total of two million head vaccinated by 1 September. The important news for Australia is that 189,000 head have been vaccinated in Bali where the risk of transmission to Australia is the highest due to the very large numbers of Aussie tourists visiting the island. If the national cattle herd is, say, 12 million head then two million doses means 16.6 percent of the herd is vaccinated. And 189,000 vaccinations in Bali from a herd of say 600,000 suggests that 31.5 percent have been vaccinated (only 30,000 doses delivered at the end of July). Bali started vaccinating two months after the rest of the country. These percentages are only a very rough guide as many cattle have already been given two vaccinations.

The extreme activity in Bali compared with elsewhere is driven by two separate factors. Firstly, FMD in Bali led to some suggestions that tourism from Australia should be blocked, so I expect that the government, both nationally and locally decided, to prioritise control measures in Bali to deflect any further suggestions to halt Australian tourism to protect the very valuable income that Bali tourism represents to the nation, especially after just recovering from a disastrous period of zero international tourism during the peak of the covid 19 pandemic. In addition, Indonesia is hosting the G20 summit meeting in Bali in November and would obviously like to be in a position to claim that the FMD was well under control during this massive international event, which will also be showcasing Bali as one of the world’s premier international tourist destinations. Which it truly is.

FMD vaccine importation and distribution is totally controlled and until recently totally funded by the national government. The original three million doses imported in June have now been largely distributed. A further million doses donated by Australia have arrived and are in the process of distribution. About 456,000 doses purchased privately and imported by the live cattle importers have also arrived and been distributed. And the Department of Agriculture has ordered an additional 14 million doses of vaccine for the second wave of the livestock vaccination program. Feedlot inventory is usually in the 100,000 head range so this level of vaccine imports will give importers confidence that all of the Australian feeders they receive can be protected with vaccine immediately on arrival. Strict biosecurity will still be essential but the level of protection after two doses three weeks apart is very high, giving importers considerable confidence to increase the level of imports following the very low levels of the past few months.

To add to this positive news, additional lumpy skin disease vaccine has also been imported by the government and by the cattle importers association. About 100,000 doses of LSD vaccine purchased privately by cattle importers have now been distributed to feedlots where it will also provide strong protection for imported feeders.

From an Australian perspective, this is all great news. Firstly, the risk of transmission from Indonesia has declined with the rapidly expanding vaccination program in Bali and elsewhere combined with the significant upgrades to biosecurity measures for Indonesian travellers returning to Australia. Secondly, cattle producers, exporters and importers can be much more confident that imported stock will be protected from infection by both FMD and LSD after arrival in Javan and Sumatran feedlots.

While the federal government cash appears to be flowing to support the vaccine supply program, many regional governments remain short of funds to supply labour, logistics and consumables, such as disposable syringes, needles and PPE, all essential for an effective vaccine delivery program for these two highly-infectious diseases. Even with adequate funding there are not enough trained vaccinators available to do the job, so police, army and veterinary students are being asked to assist. The Red Cross and other NGOs are also supporting the response. It would appear that Bali does not suffer from any of these shortages.

Movement controls required to prevent the spread of FMD appear to be strictly enforced in some areas but very relaxed and ineffective in others.

Slaughter cattle prices for local cattle in West Java are weakening as a result of the inflow of animals from Madura, East Java and Central Java. It is suggested that this movement is a result of infected or suspect animals being illegally moved to a location where better prices can be achieved. These animals are being purchased on a carcass weight basis rather than live weight to take into account their long road journey and health status.

Overall consumer demand for fresh beef is subdued with suggestions that the public is still a little uncomfortable eating beef during a disease outbreak, regardless of the fact that the product is safe for human consumption.

Compensation for FMD infected animals represents about 50 percent of their value, therefore it is reported that some farmers with infected stock will not advise authorities and sell the infected or suspect animals to achieve their best possible financial return.

Claims that there are no new FMD cases in Bali reflect the policy of the regional government to show the best face to the global tourism market. FMD is the second most infectious disease known to science, so it doesn’t just go away by starting an aggressive vaccination program and hoping for the best.

The Indonesian government has established an open website which provides live data on the progress of the FMD outbreak:

Remember that while LSD is a disease of cattle and buffalo only, FMD also affects sheep, goats and pigs so its impact on the full range of red meat supplies will be much greater.