POULTRY owners and community members are invited to provide feedback on a proposal to improve tracing of poultry in Western Australia, which will make it easier for the state to respond to disease outbreaks.
The proposal will require owners of poultry and poultry abattoirs to register with the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) and obtain a property identification code (PIC) for each property on which they keep birds.
DPIRD Deputy Chief Veterinary Officer Peter Gray said effective livestock traceability systems were essential to WA’s ability to respond to disease outbreaks, to manage food safety and to support ongoing access to markets.
The importance of poultry tracing for states has been highlighted due to three different strains of avian influenza being found across six farms in Victoria in the past two months.
On September 4 Agriculture Victoria said to help limit the spread of avian influenza to other farms and minimise the impact on Victoria’s poultry industry restricted areas and control areas had been put in place in the Golden Plains Shire near Lethbridge, near Bairnsdale and near Kerang.
The department said a strain of highly pathogenic avian influenza (H7N7) virus was first detected at a free-range egg farm near Lethbridge on July 31, with a second affected farm confirmed to have the virus on August 6.
Then a turkey farm was found to have the low pathogenic strain (H5N2) of avian influenza on August 10.
Dr Gray said in WA mandatory registration of owners of poultry would allow DPIRD to identify and maintain a formal register of properties where birds were kept.
“WA already requires owners of livestock (such as cattle, sheep, goats, pigs) to register and obtain a property identification code for where their animals are kept,’’ he said.
The formal register would help protect the sector from serious diseases such as avian influenza, food safety and biosecurity risks and ensure DPIRD was able to quickly communicate information to stakeholders.
But Dr Gray said the proposed requirement for poultry in WA had been designed so that it would not affect backyard chicken owners or hobby owners.
“The proposal applies to owners of chickens, turkeys, ducks, geese, guinea fowl, quail, pheasants, partridges, emus, ostriches, domesticated pigeons (such as those kept for racing, breeding, exhibition or competition) and poultry abattoirs,” he said.
“However, mandatory registration will only apply to owners who have 50 or more poultry, or 10 or more emus or ostriches, and to all owners who sell bird meat or eggs.”
Agriculture Victoria said five poultry farms confirmed to have avian influenza had been de-stocked and work was underway to decontaminate those sites to ensure all remnants of the virus were eliminated.
Surveillance and tracing efforts to determine other at-risk properties and contain the risk had been increased.
Meanwhile, anyone wanting to move domestic birds, bird products and equipment into, out of or within the restricted area or control areas has to obtain a permit from Agriculture Victoria.
“The permit is for buying, selling or moving eggs, manure and chickens, whether on the side of the road, from your property, your local store, online (such as Gumtree or Facebook) or at markets,’’ the Agriculture Victoria website said.
“It is illegal to move these products without a permit.
“All pigeon races, bird shows and bird sales in the restricted and control areas must be cancelled.
“The Victorian Department of Health and Human Services confirmed the H7N7, and H7N6 and H5N2 strains are not a risk to the public as they rarely affect humans unless there is direct and close contact with sick birds,’’ the Agriculture Victoria website said.
“There are no food safety issues identified (and) properly cooked chicken meat and eggs are safe to eat.’’
To find out more about the WA proposal and to have your say visit poultry traceability proposal
The consultation period will finish at 5pm AWST on Thursday, October 1.