Could the prevalence of disease in feral/wild deer impact livestock industries?

livestock diseases
Image by Hamka Hamka

Australian agriculture is currently free from many viral diseases that impact livestock industries in other parts of the world, including foot-and-mouth disease (FMD).

However, in Australia, there are six species of wild/feral deer that could pose a biosecurity risk to the agricultural sector as potential carriers of important livestock diseases.

The Centre for Invasive Species Solutions (CISS) is currently delivering a project, as part of its national deer RDE collaboration, looking at the role of feral/wild deer in the transmission of diseases of livestock. The project is being led by researchers at the Victorian Arthur Rylah Institute in collaboration with researchers at LaTrobe University and NSW DPI. The project receives funding from the Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment.

One aspect of this national project is being completed by LaTrobe University and CISS supported PhD candidate Jose Huaman, who is specifically looking at the transmission of pathogens from feral/wild deer to livestock in Australia.

Jose’s first study, recently published in the journal Viruses, assessed blood samples from deer for the serological evidence of exposure to relevant viral livestock disease.

Analysis of 432 deer blood samples, collected across eastern Australia, demonstrated an increase in the prevalence of Pestivirus across sites where this disease was first found some 40 years ago, as well as the first detection in Rusa deer.

Pestivirus is not new in Australia and commonly occurs in livestock species, however it can cause some economic loss to the industry. The researchers do speculate that this growing prevalence of Pestivirus could be a result of deer density increase in recent times. While more research is required, the results may indicate that the growing feral/wild deer populations could act as disease vectors and have the potential to jeopardise management action to limit/eradicate disease in livestock and even prolong outbreaks, if deer populations are left unmanaged.

Further investigations are now needed to monitor pathogen activity and quantify possible future infectious disease impacts of wild deer on the Australian livestock industry.

You can view the full paper here –

This project is part of Australia’s largest deer RD&E collaboration being delivered through CISS, focused on four innovative projects:

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