Understanding livestock movement and the risk of spread of transboundary animal diseases
Extension Start Date
Extension Finish Date
ACIAR Research Program Manager
The overall aim of the project is to improve control of livestock diseases by: 1) providing information on the predicted spatial risk of disease spread (allowing implementation of pre-emptive measures to limit disease spread in high-risk populations); 2) developing alternative interventions to decrease the risk of disease spread through livestock movements.
Project Background and Objectives
Transboundary animal diseases in Southeast Asia (including foot-and-mouth disease and classical swine fever) cause significant losses. Such diseases cross national borders and spread primarily to new areas through livestock movements.
A detailed, timely, quantitative understanding of livestock movement patterns and their influence on the spread of disease would quickly pinpoint high-risk areas. This would enable preventative actions to be taken and also aid the development of new strategies to minimise the risk of disease spread.
The veterinary services of Cambodia and Lao PDR and their three Australian partners will undertake research in Cambodia, Lao PDR and Australia in order to understand the drivers of domestic and transboundary livestock movements, then use this understanding to help prevent the spread of livestock diseases.
The project will also involve partnerships with the International Animal Health Organisation (OIE) and the Australian Federal Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF), and maintain close linkages with the Bangkok regional office of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).
Progress Reports (Year 1, 2, 3 etc)
The project inception meeting was held in Phnom Penh in July 2007, although the project contract was not signed by the Cambodian partners until October 2007, resulting in a delayed start. Funds allocated for the Cambodian component of the project were first successfully transferred in January 2008. Since then, in-country funds have been used to run one training workshop on livestock movement data entry. This will form the basis of movement mapping, and provide a foundation for more detailed subsequent studies on movement patterns.
The project manager in Cambodia, Dr Holl Davun, a Deputy Director of NaVRI, has been heavily involved in completing further studies. This has taken him out of the country for significant periods. He is now seeking employment of project - specific staff.
To this stage, we have not been able to engage a volunteer for the Cambodian component of the project (we have planned and budgeted for two), principally because of the complete lack of volunteers. Some of the organisational functions expected from the volunteers will be addressed through the use of interim contract services. This interim arrangement is under regular review, subject to the willingness of in-country counterpart agreement, and would be terminated by the appointment of a volunteer after an appropriate handover period.
Dr Sorn San, a Director of NaVRI, who has a small but critical oversight role in this project in Cambodia, was the recipient of a John Dillon Fellowship, and has received project management training through this. It is anticipated that this upskilling will facilitate the outcomes of the Cambodian component of this project.
The Lao component of the project is scheduled to start in July 2008, and will coincide with the annual Project meeting. This will be held in Vientiane 30th June - 2nd July inclusive.
Volunteers for Lao are available, and will be engaged formally in the near future.
Following the inception meeting, a number of workshops are scheduled, including a data entry workshop in Vientiane, a parallel to that held in Phnom Penh in January this year.
In addition, Dr Farida Tilbury from Murdoch University will be holding a number of livestock trader workshops, thereby commencing the sociological component of the project, which seeks to elaborate the trader networks, and drivers for livestock movement.
The project has engaged the services of Dr Jim Kerr to manage the operational components of the project. Jim's appointment should facilitate development of project goals, through his experiences in overseas projects, and extensive involvement in state and national disease control and eradication programmes.
Dr Ben Madin has commenced his PhD through Murdoch University, analysing the movement data from Cambodia/Lao, and comparing this with Australian livestock movement data. The outcome of Ben's PhD should enhance livestock management practices in all three countries.
The project aims to generate a detailed understanding of livestock movement patterns in Cambodia and Laos and their influence on the spread of animal diseases. This process includes the development of a computer model for predicting livestock movements, based on data such as market prices. When disease surveillance information is added to the model, it should be possible to predict risk of disease spread, allowing preventative measures to be attempted in high risk animal populations.
The technology developed by the project will include systems for the reporting, management, analysis and modelling of data, which will subsequently be transferred to neighbouring countries to promote the development of an integrated regional disease early warning system. During 2010 and 2011, the project will also investigate novel non-regulatory strategies to reduce the disease risk associated with livestock movements in the region.
Good progress has been made in the six primary data collection activities:
The retrospective study of existing livestock movement data has largely been completed.
A prospective study of livestock movements began in each country in mid-2008, providing an opportunity to influence the nature of the data recorded on official movement permits.
An animal tracking study was initiated in 2008 to record the movements of ear-tagged cattle and buffaloes through road and border checkpoints, slaughterhouses, markets and other locations.
A sociological study of livestock traders and other stakeholders has made good progress in understanding the drivers and trading networks governing livestock movements in Cambodia and Lao PDR. Hundreds of trader interviews have been conducted, generating important findings.
A study of livestock population dynamics in Cambodia and Lao PDR is well underway.
A market price reporting system was developed and implemented in Cambodia and Lao PDR during 2008, introducing web-based and mobile phone (SMS) reporting methods.
By mid-2008 Government project staff in both countries had begun entering movement records and market price data into project databases using the new website and SMS reporting systems. The project's computer programs use this data to generate movement reports, movement maps and isoplethic market price maps according to month and species (cattle, buffalo and pig).
Meetings and interviews are being conducted with traders and other livestock industry stakeholders across both countries in order to develop an understanding of trading practices and the social, cultural, economic and environmental drivers of livestock movements. This sociological research is generating interesting findings and identifying opportunities for future interventions aimed at reducing the animal disease risk associated with animal movements.
The data collection phase of the project will conclude at the end of 2009, at which time the focus will change to:
analysis of the relationship between various movement drivers and livestock movements
assessment of disease reporting systems and surveillance data
analysis of risk pathways for FMD and CSF
predictive modelling (generation of a computer model capable of predicting livestock movements and the risk of disease spread)
transferring the technology developed by the project to neighbouring countries
investigation of interventions to reduce the disease risk associated with livestock movements.
A delayed start in Cambodia and the budgetary implications of a devalued Australian dollar prompted a revision of various project activities and outputs early in 2009. Consequently:
The project now has an amended duration of 4.5 years, and a new finish date of 31st October 2011.
Project activities in Cambodia and Lao PDR, which were originally intended to be implemented in a staggered fashion, will now take place simultaneously.
The data collection period for most activities was extended until the end of 2009.
Experienced veterinary consultants have been successfully engaged in Cambodia and Laos to perform roles originally envisaged for Australian volunteers and sociologists, including supervision of various project activities, training of staff, and collection of data from livestock traders and other stakeholders.
As planned, opportunities for collaboration with other projects and organisations have been actively pursued (see section 8). Project outputs are being aligned as much as possible with regional disease control strategies, particularly the Southeast Asia Foot and Mouth Disease (SEAFMD) Campaign, managed by the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE).
In Laos, where project inception occurred in July 2008, a number of activities are being conducted in collaboration with ACIAR project AH/2006/159: 'Best practice health and husbandry of cattle and buffalo in Lao PDR'. The information generated by livestock population monitoring and investigation of livestock movements and marketing is valuable to both projects.
WA and Australia expect to benefit from strengthening animal health management and biosecurity in the region. The long term goal of participant and neighbouring countries is the control of transboundary diseases, particularly foot and mouth disease and swine fever. Control of these diseases by our trading partners, and in those countries where increasing numbers of Australians tourists (including from WA) are travelling, will contribute to the strengthening our national biosecurity.
The project made good progress during 2009 -2010 in its efforts to understand livestock movements in the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS). An improved understanding of these movement patterns is a fundamental requirement for the regional strategy to control Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD) in South-East Asia through the SEAFMD campaign.
The disease threat posed by uncontrolled FMD in mainland South-East Asia was demonstrated early in 2010 by FMD outbreaks in South Korea, Hong Kong and Japan, all of which featured a South-East Asian strain of the virus. These outbreaks have emphasised the importance to Australia of continuing to support disease control programs in South-East Asia in order to reduce the biosecurity threat posed by its northern neighbours.
Major data collection activities were completed in Cambodia and Laos at the end of 2009. These activities were managed by our project partners in South-East Asia, the Cambodian Department of Animal Health and Production (DAHP) and Lao PDR Department of Livestock and Fisheries (DLF). Follow-up efforts to obtain missing livestock movement records and livestock price data from various Cambodian and Lao provinces will be completed by June 2010. Analysis of this data will proceed throughout 2010 to determine if market prices are clearly predictive of animal movements.
Activity 1.2.1 ('Working with traders') has been a standout success, generating valuable descriptions of trade routes and volumes, trader networks and trading practices within Cambodia and Laos. Part of this activity was conducted in collaboration with an OIE-managed FAO ADB study into cross-border livestock movements in the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS), the report of which should soon be available on the SEAFMD website.
The project's assessment of disease reporting in Cambodia and Laos (Activity 1.3.1) suggests that there is presently inadequate knowledge of disease incidence and prevalence throughout these countries to allow a disease risk to be estimated for livestock movements. The project's predictive computer model can therefore not be supported by the present level of disease reporting in Cambodia and Laos. The potential application of this technology in other GMS countries will be explored throughout 2010 and 2011.
Feedback meetings were held throughout Cambodia and Laos during Feb-May 2010 for livestock traders, departmental staff and other project stakeholders who contributed information during 2008 and 2009. These meetings have been used to present with project results, and to canvass these stakeholders about the preferred means of delivering the disease biosecurity education that they have requested.
The development and delivery of trader education in various formats will be trialled during 2010 and 2011 as a means of reducing disease spread. It is hoped that a better understanding of disease behaviour may discourage some of the high-risk trading practices that were identified during our interviews with livestock traders.
The ongoing contact with Cambodian and Lao trader networks that will be provided by the project's trader education activity is also intended to increase the opportunity for the Cambodian and Lao governments to consult with this important stakeholder group when developing policy and protocols associated with the livestock trade.
A Risk Pathway Workshop was co-hosted by the project at the 8th Meeting of the Lower Mekong Working Group (LMWG) in November 2009 as part of Activity 1.3.2 (Risk pathway analysis for FMD and CSF). This workshop built on information collected from traders about trade routes, trading practices and trader networks. Important risk pathways have consequently been identified, together with 'critical points' along those pathways where disease reduction interventions might be attempted. A workshop report is available at the project website: http://ulm.animalhealthresearch.asia/
It was agreed at our Annual Project Meeting in Vientiane in March 2010 that risk analyses would be attempted during 2010 for the most important of the livestock trade pathways identified by the project. These analyses will include comparative assessment of the disease risk associated with official and unofficial border crossings, and will also assess the effect of fast-tracking slaughter movements rather than applying protracted movement protocols involving compulsory quarantine periods for imported livestock.
It is expected that these results will form the basis of 'policy briefs' that can be used by SEAFMD and other influential organisations to help guide GMS governments in the development of workable and effective policies for livestock movement management and disease control. Such an outcome would contribute significantly to improved animal health management and biosecurity in the region, with consequent biosecurity benefits for WA and Australia.
ACIAR Project AH/2006/025 aims to understand livestock movements in Cambodia and Laos in order to assess the role that they play in the spread of transboundary animal diseases in the Mekong region. There was a surge in Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD) outbreaks in these countries during 2010/2011 which affected 13 of 17 provinces in Laos and 18 of 23 provinces in Cambodia. The consequent regional risk was emphasised by FMD outbreaks during 2010 in Hong Kong, Japan, North Korea, South Korea, China, and Mongolia. Laboratory investigation implicated FMD-endemic parts of mainland Southeast Asia as the source of FMD viruses that caused these recent outbreaks in East Asia, highlighting the ongoing importance of ACIAR research to assess and reduce the disease risk associated with livestock movements in the Mekong region.
At the project's Annual Meeting in March 2010, project stakeholders agreed that the project had significantly improved the understanding of livestock trading and movement pathways in Cambodia and Laos, satisfying the project's primary objective. The meeting subsequently considered how this information could best be used to achieve the project's second objective: to investigate non-regulatory interventions which might reduce the risk of disease spread associated with the livestock trade.
A Project Review in August 2010 supported the recommendations of the Annual Meeting, endorsing three main activities for the project to focus on during 2010-2011:
Development and trial of educational materials in Cambodia and Laos aimed at training livestock traders in simple, practical biosecurity measures to apply in the course of their work.
Risk analysis of major livestock trade routes in Cambodia and Laos, especially those featuring transboundary movements, in order to help policy-makers better manage livestock movements and develop feasible and effective border crossing protocols.
Technology transfer of the project's computer systems to interested countries in the Greater Mekong Sub-region, with the intention that project's systems for online data entry, data management, creation of reports and maps, and predictive modelling of livestock movements will assist animal health authorities in the region to better manage animal movements and disease control.
Educational materials were trialled with Lao livestock traders during 2010. They have undergone further trial and refinement in 2011, and now include a booklet, poster and digital story.
The biosecurity message has been distilled into a simple, generic 5-step biosecurity approach for traders to apply in the course of a typical buying trip. Equivalent Khmer-language versions are being developed for Cambodia.
Project personnel are contributing to the collaborative production of a combined ACIAR project publication on best practice in livestock health and biosecurity. Produced initially in English, this publication will serve to guide ongoing and future production and biosecurity research in Cambodia and Laos. The publication will also be a key compendium of production and biosecurity information for livestock producers and traders suitable for translation into Khmer and Lao.
The Cambodian Department of Animal Health and Production (DAHP) and Lao Department of Livestock and Fisheries (DLF) continue to lead project activities in those countries, assisted by project consultants with specific research skills. Although these partner organisations have been very busy dealing with animal disease emergencies during 2010-2011, they have nevertheless facilitated a number of project activities, including feedback meetings for stakeholders, trial of educational materials, and collection of information required by the risk assessment activity.
The project's computer systems for entry and management of livestock movement data continue to be supported in Cambodia and Laos by AusVet Animal Health Services. AusVet is also leading efforts to share project technology with other countries in the Greater Mekong Sub-region, with opportunities in Myanmar and China presently being investigated.
The Department of Agriculture and Food, Western Australia (DAFWA) and Murdoch University are leading the risk analysis activity, and jointly ran a risk analysis workshop in January 2011. The project subsequently presented a risk assessment of a major Cambodian livestock pathway at the 2011 Meeting of the OIE Sub-commission for Foot-and-Mouth Disease in South-East Asia and China (SEACFMD). The assessment investigated a transit route which runs from Thailand through Cambodia into southern Vietnam. Murdoch University continues to support a Chinese PhD student who is investigating livestock trade routes into China from Laos and Myanmar.
Project stakeholders have always accepted that the movement data collected by the project during 2008-2009 only represented a 'snapshot' of the livestock trade in the Mekong, and that the knowledge we developed about trading practices and trader networks was likely to be of more enduring value. Nevertheless, the updated trade information that we have collected during 2010-2011 in the course of conducting feedback meetings for traders and investigating particular trade routes have surprised us by reiterating how rapidly trade patterns can change.
Recent field work in Laos and Cambodia during April/May 2011 was intended to assist our risk assessment of two trade routes: the transit trade in Thai cattle and buffaloes moving through Cambodia to Vietnam, and the so-called 'fast-track' trade in cattle and buffaloes moving from Thailand and Myanmar through north-western Laos to China. Our 2011 research has found that the 'fast-track' trade to China has stopped altogether, and the Cambodian transit trade is operating at a fraction of the peak volumes it reached in 2009. In both cases, currency fluctuations are reported to have been an important contributing factor, with the multiple currency exchanges required to move livestock between three or four countries significantly depressing trader profits. This finding has reinforced the fact that economic variables are an important feature to consider when attempting risk assessments of trade routes, and when developing import and export protocols with which traders are expected to comply.
The predictive influence of prices on livestock movements is the subject of computer modelling research by the project's PhD student, the results of which are due for release later in 2011.