Horse flu free state a winner

THE Toft family received a belated Christmas present recently when the world officially acknowledged Australia was equine influenza (EI) free.

The official recognition from the World Organisation for Animal Health follows a sustained surveillance and compliance effort in the 12 months since the last notified case of equine influenza on Christmas Day, 2007.

Tallegalla endurance horse breeder Peter Toft said the most significant announcement for the industry was when people were allowed to move their horses and go about their normal activities.

But the official recognition was great news for Australia, as it would reassure international industry members.

“That can help put a bit more confidence in the international market for our horses,” Mr Toft said.

Mr Toft and his wife Penny breed and export endurance horses and compete in endurance events overseas.

He said he hoped the Callinan Report's recommended changes to the quarantine system would prevent EI from reaching Australia's shores again.

But Mr Toft said some of the former judge Ian Callinan's recommendations lacked practicality and there should have been more consultation with industry members.

“A lot of the implementations they're giving will have little or no benefit to preventing equine influenza, but others will have significant impact,” he said.

“There are a lot of new restrictions, they've put in quite a financial impost on both the importer and the exporter, which puts us in a less competitive frame.

“But overall it is pretty good.

“We don't have any concerns about the procedures in regards to reimporting the horses - we think that is very effective and that only safeguards our industry.”

Mr Toft said the horse industry was suffering from the drought before EI, which had now eased, but it would now have to deal with a global economic slow-down.

“It will affect horse sales - people have got other priorities, like mortgages to fix up,” he said.

But Mr Toft said Australia's horse industry had been very resilient and many people were competing again.

“Maybe not to quite the same levels as before equine influenza but certainly probably a figure of about 80 per cent of the industry is back,” he said.

“And whether that 20 per cent will come back or will pursue other activities is unknown at this stage.”

'That can help put a bit more confidence in the international market for our horses.'



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