Victorian grain growers Dave and Jenny Morrison have found that the biosecurity practices required for their diversification into raising ducks are also benefiting their grain operations.
The Morrisons, from Netherby, in the Victorian Wimmera region, own 607 hectares and share-farm another 607ha. They crop barley and wheat, have a flock of 500 ewes and fat lambs, and also have a growing shed for ducks.
They are among the 28 contract growers and duck breeders in the Wimmera region for Luv-a-Duck, a family-owned Australian company. The company has strict hygiene protocols for contractors, who are audited against biosecurity, welfare and productivity standards.
The diversification has raised the profile of biosecurity for the Morrisons as disease presents a clear and immediate threat to the ducks. Wild birds in particular are a constant disease risk.
“You’ve got to look after the birds,” Mr Morrison says. “If they don’t get sick, they are happy birds and the product is better.”
The focus on biosecurity has also transferred to the Morrisons’ other farming operations. Mr Morrison’s number one biosecurity tip is cleanliness. “The cleaner you are, the better off you’ll be. And what works for ducks works for other livestock and for cropping too.”
Victorian grains biosecurity officer Jim Moran says adopting farm biosecurity practices may require a shift in thinking for some people.
“For grain growers with livestock, particularly poultry, biosecurity is often a much higher priority threat than in cropping-only enterprises, although pests and disease are just as much a threat to crops.”
Mr Moran says while it often takes time and effort to incorporate good biosecurity measures, it rarely costs much money. There are specific protocols required for duck producers, but many of the principles and practices are transferable to any farming operation.
Keep records of inputs and outputs
Duck growers: Keep records of bird arrivals and departures and food rations.
All producers: Keep records of inputs and outputs, such as seed, planting stock and livestock. Visitors to all farms should be registered, allowing trace-back if required.
Keep out pests and diseases
Duck growers: Keep all wild birds out of the shed and preclude people who have worked in or visited other avian or pig properties. Maintain regular surveillance of animals for any signs of pests or diseases.
All producers: Use farm biosecurity fence signage, a sterilising foot bath, and designated roadways and car parks. Surveillance for problems and rapid reporting are essential in all industries. Find out where visitors have been so that you can weigh up any risk to your operation from pests and diseases that could be carried on hands, footwear, clothing, in hair, and on vehicles and machinery.
Keep premises clean
Duck growers: Keep the duck shed hygienic, including drinking and feeding trays, a daily refresh of litter and regular disinfestation.
All producers: Keep all farm buildings, equipment, machinery sheds and vehicles clean.
For information about good on-farm biosecurity practices for the grains industry, contact your local grains biosecurity officer.
Plant Health Australia
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