The National Sheep Health Monitoring Project (NSHMP) began in 2006 as an industry funded initiative to add value to the abattoir monitoring already being undertaken for OJD. It is coordinated by Animal Health Australia, with day to day operation of the program contracted to the National Meat Industry Training Advisory Council (MINTRAC).
Monitoring occurs in both export and domestic processing plants across Australia. Reports are collected on a range of conditions identified by producers, processors and state departments as having a significant economic impact on sheep production either via reduced productivity or increased wastage due to condemnations and product downgrading. Monitoring is limited to the detection of diseases which can be identified by inspection of viscera or the corresponding carcase inspection stage.
Monitoring occurs during normal meat inspection activities and must not compromise chain speed, so inspectors are highly trained and experienced to enable them to perform monitoring with around 6-9 seconds available per ‘specimen’.
The current list of reported conditions is:
In NSW monitoring occurs on rotation between these sheep abattoirs:
Once proposed changes to export meat inspection requirements are clarified it is likely that monitoring will resume at Dubbo abattoir later this year. This will be of great benefit to NSW sheep producers.
Monitoring data is managed by AHA and stored on the EDIS database which can be accessed by state sheep health coordinators. In NSW, software to automate the return of monitoring information direct to producers is in the final stages of development and should go live by the end of the financial year. The aim is to provide monthly reporting of OJD and other conditions data direct to producers, and for regional information made available to district veterinarians.
De-identified information from the NSHMP is increasingly sought by researchers, farm consultants, state and federal departments and pharmaceutical companies to develop extension messages and plan research projects.
From 1 July 2014 the NSHMP will be incorporated into the Livestock Production Conditions (LPC) Pilot Project. This project is funded by the national sheep industries and is an industry priority for the future.
The project aims to combine monitoring, biosecurity planning and extension activities for endemic sheep conditions into one project with a broad focus, not split into individual conditions. A steering committee is being established with representatives from the sheep industry councils, Australian Meat Industry Council (AMIC), AHA, Jurisdictions with sheep, the Livestock Biosecurity Network (LBN), AWI and MLA. There will be an independent Chair. The first meeting will be in late April 2014. The steering committee will provide guidance to AHA and the national sheep industry councils on project operations and areas of expenditure but can not make decisions. The project will continue for as long as industry deems it cost effective and of benefit to producers.