In Australia, wild deer, including Fallow, Sambar, Red, Rusa, Chital and Hog deer, can feed on agricultural landscapes and, therefore, pose a biosecurity risk to the agricultural sector as potential carriers of important livestock diseases such as foot-and-mouth disease (FMD).
FMD is highly contagious and is the exotic disease of greatest significance to Australian agriculture. A large multi-state outbreak of FMD in Australia will result in an estimated direct economic loss of AU$52 billion over 10 years, with a current FMD freedom status underpinning a nationally significant annual trade in live animal and meat exports.
A spatially explicit, multi-species model has been developed (Australian Animal Disease Spread Model; AADIS) to predict the movement of FMD virus through various Australian agricultural industries. However, this model currently does not include virus transmission between livestock and wildlife populations, including deer. The role of wildlife in the transmission of FMD has been demonstrated overseas, but has not been evaluated against wild deer populations within the unique farming systems and environment of Australia.
This project will directly investigate the risk posed by deer to the livestock industry as hosts for exotic disease, using the transmission of endemic viral disease(s) between deer and livestock as an example. This project will also evaluate the effectiveness of possible mitigation strategies should an outbreak occur. This will be achieved by estimating deer population density adjacent to farms, quantifying their level of interactions with livestock, the level of connectivity between local deer populations and by estimating the cross-species infection rate between deer and livestock species.