MANY questions connected with animal pests and stock diseases were discussed by the annual conference of the Institute of Stock Inspectors in Sydney this week.
Among these questions were the relationship of the rabbit pest to the health of stock, and the increasing difficulty of keeping diseases out of the country in the face of rapid means of transport.
Opening the conference, the Chief Veterinary Surgeon, Mr. Max Henry, referred to the importance of the stock inspectors' work in the control of the rabbit pest. The prime factor in the increase of the pest to plague proportions, he said, appeared to be the financial position of graziers.
Mr. Henry added that this was not the first rabbit plague, and would probably not be the last, but he considered it certain that the rabbits would be reduced to their former numbers. The situation was already improving owing to the dry conditions in the west of the State.
At a later stage of the conference a vigorous debate on rabbit control followed the reading of a paper by Mr. F. F. Forster, of Goulburn, who held that if Australia was made a country in which it was profitable to engage in industry the landowners would be able to deal with the rabbit pest, which would then cease to present a problem.
Mr. W. J. Smith (Young) said that, although the legislative machinery for the control of the pest could be improved, what was really wanted in many cases was a desire to use the machinery. The only "drive" which would succeed was the constant drive of control all the year round.
Rabbits, he declared, affected the quality of pasture and the health of stock to such an extent that no man could succeed on the land and breed rabbits.
Mr. Smith said the western districts were a breeding ground for the rest of the State, and forest reserves and railway lands in other districts were dangers to the country.
Mr. F. T. Yeomans (Narrandera) said it might be a good thing if the rabbit was declared a disease under the Stock Diseases Act.
He thought that the pastures protection boards should be compelled to carry but their duties, as did several other speakers, who expressed the view that one backward district could serve as a source of rabbit supply for surrounding areas.
In the course of his presidential address, Mr. C. J. Woollet (Lismore), said that the greatest care should be exercised in purchasing dairy cattle to take into clean country, where new arrivals might introduce serious disease.
This view was supported by several other speakers, who referred to the number of cattle purchased in recognised dairying districts to be taken into new areas.
Mr. G. L. Fielder (Dubbo) said that the introduction of coastal stock involved a tremendous risk of the pollution of western herds.
In an address on veterinary science, Mr. Max Henry said that air traffic provided the most serious challenge to animal quarantine services which had ever appeared.
He said the change from sail to steam in sea transport had intensified the danger, but air traffic, besides increasing the old risk, had introduced a new type of danger, for the introduction of animals by sea or land could be carefully watched, but air traffic was practically uncontrollable. The increase in the number of private and semi-official aerodromes would magnify the danger, which was already recognised in Europe, and which would be of even greater concern to Australia, with her empty north.
Unless international control measures could be evolved, said Mr. Henry, there must in the future be veterinary police measures along the air routes leading to Australia.
If contagious disease was ever extirpated from Australia's flocks and herds, he added, increasingly drastic tests would have to be applied to all animals imported, except those from countries which were advanced in preventive veterinary medicine.
Dealing with methods of disease control, Mr. Henry said that a change of outlook from control to eradication was already in progress. The heyday of vaccines had already passed, and recognition of the fact that these were only palliatives was steadily increasing.
He predicted another change in a departure from the use of drugs on healthy animals, and said that one of the functions of veterinary science in the future would be to protect the farmer from exploitation.
Patent medicines, he said, must be divided into two fairly large and one very small group. The first two groups were the sheer swindles and the reputable drugs which were sold at outrageous prices, the third being really satisfactory medicants, sold at reasonable prices.
Mr. Woollet also dealt with this subject, advising inspectors to put stockowners on their guard against medicine salesmen unless they were travelling for reputable firms.
Extraordinary claims were made for some preparations, he declared and the time had arrived when this kind of "commercial robbery" should be restricted by legislation.
The rapid increase of worm infestation of sheep in the Narrandera district was mentioned by Mr. F. T. Yeomans, who said that worms were not reported in the district till 1925, and by 1931 the infestation of merino flocks was 60 per cent. On one property the mortality had been 60 per cent. The ordinary bluestone and mustard drench had proved a satisfactory means of dealing with the trouble.
Discussing the Pig Branding Act, Mr. Woollet said that owners paid 1/- for every pig sold into a fund to compensate owners whose pigs suffered from certain diseases. There were many owners who never had pigs condemned, but they had to help compensate the breeders of diseased animals. The sooner diseases of swine were materially diminished the sooner would the tax be reduced.
He said that the finding of tubercular cattle on farms which had supplied tubercular pigs had led to a noticeable reduction in the percent age of pigs condemned.
The following officers were elected:
President, Mr. C. J. Woollet (Lismore); Council, Messrs. H. Copeland (Moree), A. Hessin (Merriwa), E. A. Lucas (Maitland), F. J. Madden (Tamworth), E. J. Quinn (Coonamble) T. K. Ryan (Armidale), J. V. McCulloch (Gundagai), A. F. Ellis (Bega), C. L. Fielder (Dubbo), and W. J. Smith (Young); treasurer, Mr. C. J. Woollet.
A postal ballot will be taken to elect the two vice-presidents, those nominated being Messrs. F. F. Forster (Goulburn), C. W. Sabine (Grafton), and J. Faulkner (Flemington).