Malaysia suspends import of live cattle from Australia citing lumpy skin disease concerns

Malaysia has paused the import of all live cattle and buffalo from Australia, following Indonesia’s decision to halt imports from four Australian facilities over concerns about lumpy skin disease (LSD) last month. 

Australia’s chief vet Mark Schipp said LSD has never been detected in Australia and the country remains free of the livestock disease.

“We understand [Malaysia’s] decision was based on Indonesia’s advice that they will not accept cattle from four specific export establishments following detection of LSD in exported Australian cattle after they had arrived and spent time in Indonesia,” Dr Schipp said in a statement.

“Australia is urgently engaging with its Malaysian counterparts to confirm our robust animal health system, and to advise that LSD is not present in Australia.

“I have made representations to my Malaysian counterpart, requesting the import restriction on live cattle and buffalo from Australia be lifted without delay.”

Indonesia temporarily stopped taking livestock from four live export facilities after it said 13 cattle were found to have LSD.

An outbreak of LSD would force Australia to halt meat and dairy exports while it renegotiated trade agreements, potentially costing the country more than $7 billion in 12 months.

Compared to Indonesia, Malaysia is one of Australia’s smaller live export markets, with an annual average of nearly 20,000 head exported over the last five years.

Malaysia has bought both cattle for slaughter from northern Australia and breeder cattle from southern states.

LSD testing results starting to return

Australian authorities maintain the cattle found to have LSD in Indonesia picked up the disease after arriving in the country, and have been testing cattle in the facilities to reassure Indonesian concerns.

Federal Agriculture Minister Murray Watt said the government was working as quickly as it could to answer Indonesian and Malaysian concerns.

“The testing results are starting to come in and there is nothing that we have seen so far to alter our position that we are free of lumpy skin disease,” Mr Watt said.

“Our biosecurity officials are urgently working with both Malaysia and Indonesia to meet their requirements, to demonstrate conclusively that we don’t have lumpy skin disease.

“We hope to see that trade reopen as quickly as possible.”

Dr Schipp said he had confirmed to the World Organisation for Animal Health that Australia was free of LSD, according to international standards.

“While Indonesia has sought assurances that Australian cattle comply with their health requirements, it is important to recognise that Australian livestock products continue to be traded, and the detection of LSD in cattle of Australian-origin post arrival in Indonesia does not affect the animal health status of Australia,” he said.

LSD was found in Malaysia in May, 2021. 

ABC Rural news daily