Biosecurity over the silly season

By Callen Thompson, December 2020

It is great to have visitors over the holidays, but be careful that you are not getting unwelcome ones!

Regional Australia is experiencing a tourism boom due to people not being able to travel overseas. This is great for our local economies, but one of the downsides is that we have many more people traveling who could be transporting pests, weeds and diseases. As more borders open and we move into the summer holidays this will only increase. If you are planning to have visitors on your farm this summer, now is the time to think about your biosecurity.

As well as family and friends visiting, some producers in our region may be looking to use camp booking websites or apps to allow paid guests to camp on their properties. It is up to individuals to decide if this model works for them practically and financially, but it is important that they think about the biosecurity implications and manage any risks associated with people and vehicles visiting their farm.

Introduce visitors to your biosecurity plan

The first step is to make sure visitors are aware of your biosecurity plan. Before they arrive on-farm, discuss the need for their vehicles, clothes and equipment to be clean. Limit the number of entry points to your property and make sure there is a Farm Biosecurity sign on each entry point.

You should keep a record of anyone who visits your farm. Also ask them where they will be coming from and record this in case you do find an incursion in the future. There are a number of pests and weeds that are regionally based and visitors from these areas could indicate a higher risk, for instance Parthenium weed in Queensland or Fireweed from north eastern NSW.

Once they arrive, take them through an induction including discussing your biosecurity plan. Ideally, provide them with a map that indicates the areas they can and can’t go. If possible, keep them away from production areas like cropping paddocks and stock yards. Ask that they only travel on formed roads and that they do not drive across paddocks. Also ask that they not interact with livestock, particularly feeding them food scraps. Take the time to walk around their vehicle with them and check that there is no visible soil or plant materials on or under their car including vans or trailers.

Wash down vehicles and holiday equipment

As previously mentioned ask visitors to clean vehicles, equipment and clothing before entering your farm. Vehicles can have soil or vegetation under them so it is important to thoroughly check. Areas such as wheel arches, cross members, bash plates, on top of fuel tanks and spare tyres are areas where mud and plant material often goes un-noticed (figure 1). Make sure they clean all equipment such as tents, including pegs or anything else that may come in contact with soil. If they are bringing bikes, motor bikes or buggies, get them to pay particular attention to cleaning off any soil as well as burs in tires. Clothing must be soil and weed free. Boots in particular should be clean and it is best practice to provide a foot bath for people to walk through, especially if they are entering a production area.

If they have mud or plant material present, take them to your designated wash-down areas. Compressed air is the best option to remove plant material, particularly seeds, while high pressure water is good for mud and soil. “Truck wash” style detergents are generally good at removing most disease pathogens but if you are concerned about a specific disease, contact your local Ag Advisor or Biosecurity Officer to find the best product.

Monitor for new pests, weeds and disease

When your visitors leave, make sure you inspect the area where they were camped or regularly frequented. Look out for any plant matter or rubbish that has been left and dispose of appropriately. Mark these areas on your biosecurity map and regularly check that there are no new pests or weeds present. If you find something that you cannot identify, please call your nearest LLS office.

For those who are planning to go on holiday themselves please follow the above advice when you visit other farms or environmental areas such as State Forests or National Parks. Often the weeds we see every day on our farms could be a much greater problem in environmentally sensitive areas.

The interest in traveling to our regional communities is good for our economies, but also an opportunity for us to promote our industries and the great job farmers do in looking after the land. If you would like to discuss options to improve your on-farm biosecurity, please contact your local Biosecurity Officer or Ag Advisor.

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