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Northern Rivers & Rural News

HENDRA VIRUS CONFIRMED IN FLYING FOXES IN BROAD REGION OF AUSTRALIA

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HENDRA VIRUS CAN BE TRANSMITTED FROM FLYING FOXES TO HORSES AND FROM HORSES TO PEOPLE.

HENDRA VIRUS CONFIRMED IN FLYING FOXES IN BROAD REGION OF AUSTRALIA

Scientists at CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency, have uncovered a new type of Hendra virus in flying foxes, confirming the virus can be found across a broad region of the country.

A paper detailing the findings has been published just days after the new genetic type (HeV-g2) was detected in a horse near Newcastle in New South Wales, the most southern case of Hendra yet recorded.

Hendra virus can be transmitted from flying foxes to horses, and from horses to people. Previous studies had found the virus in flying foxes in Queensland and parts of New South Wales. After monitoring flying fox samples from 2013-2021, researchers at CSIRO’s Australian Centre for Disease Preparedness (ACDP) found the new genetic type in flying foxes in Victoria, South Australia, and Western Australia.

ACDP is a World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) reference laboratory for Hendra and Nipah virus diseases. Reference expert and CSIRO scientist Dr Kim Halpin said spillover of the disease from flying foxes to horses has still only been reported in Queensland and New South Wales.

“However, because Hendra Virus Genotype 2 is so genetically similar to the original Hendra virus, there is a potential risk to horses wherever flying foxes are found in Australia,” Dr Halpin said.

“It’s important to note that Hendra has never been reported to spread directly from flying foxes to humans – it’s always been transmitted from infected horses to humans. We expect this new genetic type would behave the same way.

“And given the similarities, while more research is needed, we expect the existing Hendra virus vaccine for horses should work against this new type too.

“This finding really underscores the importance of research into flying foxes – it’s crucial to helping us understand and protect Australians against the viruses they can carry.”

Another project, called “Horses as Sentinels”, led by the University of Sydney and CSIRO and funded by a Biosecurity Innovation Program grant from the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment, detected the same genetic type earlier this year in samples collected from a horse from Queensland in 2015. Results of this research are available in preprint. https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/2021.07.16.452724v3

Dr Steve Dennis, President of Equine Veterinarians Australia, said the findings are a reminder there’s a risk of Hendra virus wherever there are flying foxes and horses.

“Owners and any people who interact with horses can reduce the risk of infection from Hendra virus and other zoonotic viruses through vaccination of horses or humans where available, wearing appropriate PPE, and seeking veterinary attention for sick horses,” Dr Dennis said.

CSIRO and the “Horses as Sentinels” project team have been working closely with vets and laboratories around Australia to implement improved tests for horses with signs of Hendra virus disease.

More information for horse owners is available at: https://www.outbreak.gov.au/for-vets-and-scientists/hendra-virus

Peer-reviewed results of CSIRO’s flying fox study have just been published in Virology Journal.

More about the study:
• Previous studies suggested the black and the spectacled flying foxes were the primary carriers of Hendra virus. This study found the new genetic type of Hendra in grey-headed flying foxes in Victoria and South Australia, and in the little red flying fox in Western Australia, confirming the virus can be found in four species of flying fox and in a broad geographic range of Australia.
• The new genetic type was first detected in a flying fox sample from 2013, but with technology available at the time the researchers could not fully analyse its genome sequence to confirm its identity and understand its significance.
• By piecing together the new virus’ genome from several flying fox samples since then using the latest technology, they discovered it was indeed a new type of Hendra virus.
• Ninety-eight flying foxes tested negative to the original Hendra virus, but 11 were found to carry genetic material indicative of HeV-g2.
• Flying fox research is crucial to our understanding of the viruses they can carry, the factors that might lead to transmission, and steps we can take to minimise those risks.

Notes about horses and flying foxes
• To date, all human cases of Hendra virus infection have resulted from direct contact with infected horses. Direct transmission of Hendra virus from flying foxes to humans has not been observed.
• This finding is a reminder of measures that horse owners and people who work closely with horses can put in place to reduce the risk of infection from Hendra virus and other henipaviruses. This includes vaccination, wearing appropriate PPE, and seeking veterinary attention for sick horses.
• Flying foxes should only be handled by people who are appropriately vaccinated, trained, and wearing personal protective equipment. Injured or sick flying foxes should be reported to a wildlife care organisation or local veterinarian.
• Flying foxes are protected animals, with two species on our nationally vulnerable list. They are critical to our environment because they pollinate our native trees and plants and also spread their seeds.
• Without flying foxes, we wouldn’t have our eucalypt forests, rainforests and melaleucas.
• Biosecurity measures will help to minimise the risk of disease transmission, while protecting these important species and their role in maintaining a healthy environment.

Local News

NSW Alternatives to Buybacks: A Modest Step Forward

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Alternatives to Buybacks Murray

NSW Alternatives to Buybacks: A Modest Step Forward

 

As the Murray-Darling Basin grapples with the imperative of fulfilling water recovery obligations, the recent unveiling of the NSW Alternative to Buybacks Plan offers a glimmer of progress. However, the fate of Basin farmers and communities’ hinges on governments’ commitment to fulfilling their end of the bargain.

The plan, though commendable, falls short of delivering substantial water-saving projects, with only a handful identified after languishing on the table for years. These projects, including the Murrumbidgee Irrigation and Coleambally Murrumbidgee Optimisation initiative, hold promise for water recovery and ecological revitalization. Yet, their efficacy relies heavily on the Commonwealth’s willingness to redefine criteria for water recovery.

According to Claire Miller, CEO of the NSW Irrigators’ Council, while certain proposals show potential, expeditious collaboration between NSW and federal departments is imperative to ensure timely implementation. Past bureaucratic inertia raises concerns about the feasibility of realising these initiatives within the stipulated timeframe, leaving Basin communities and farmers in a state of uncertainty regarding the Plan’s efficacy.

The prevailing narrative, characterised by finger-pointing between state and federal entities, exacerbates frustrations among stakeholders grappling with the prospect of buybacks overshadowing alternative solutions. The federal Water Minister’s apparent inclination towards prioritising buybacks further compounds anxieties, casting doubt on the Plan’s capacity to minimise such measures.

Alternatives to Buybacks Murray

Murray Darling Basin

Moreover, the NSW Plan underscores the practical challenges of achieving additional water recovery, even when disregarding socioeconomic considerations. With previous initiatives having exhausted readily available water-saving avenues, the efficacy of further buybacks remains dubious, as evidenced by shortfalls in existing programs like Bridging the Gap.

Most significantly, the imperative for additional water recovery is called into question by existing data revealing substantial reductions in diversions for various sectors. With only 28% of Basin inflows directed towards towns, industry, and irrigation, the focus must shift towards addressing underlying causes of river degradation, such as invasive species and poor policy frameworks.

In light of these realities, the allocation of billions of taxpayer dollars towards further water recovery raises pertinent questions about governmental priorities. Redirecting resources towards addressing systemic issues undermining river health may prove more efficacious in fostering sustainable ecological restoration.

In essence, while the NSW Alternative to Buybacks Plan represents a step towards addressing water recovery challenges, its efficacy hinges on collaborative action and a recalibration of governmental priorities towards holistic river management strategies. Only through concerted efforts to address underlying drivers of degradation can the Basin realise its full ecological potential and safeguard the livelihoods of its communities.

 

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Australia’s Dairy Excellence: Winners of the 2024 Sydney Royal Cheese and Dairy Produce Show Announced

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Winners of the 2024 Sydney Royal Cheese and Dairy Produce Show

Australia’s Dairy Excellence: Winners of the 2024 Sydney Royal Cheese and Dairy Produce Show Announced

 

Australia’s dairy industry reached new heights of recognition as the Royal Agricultural Society of NSW (RAS) unveiled the champions of its esteemed Sydney Royal Cheese and Dairy Produce Show. Held at a captivating cocktail function within the Sydney Showground, the event showcased the finest dairy products from across the country.

With over 530 entries vying for top honours, the competition brought together renowned industry judges to evaluate an impressive array of submissions. Remarkably, 89% of the exhibits received either a bronze, silver, or gold medal, underscoring the exceptional quality of Australia’s dairy offerings.

Among the standout winners was Bega’s Rindless Vintage Cheese, which claimed multiple accolades including Champion Cheese and Champion Cheddar Cheese, earning a coveted spot on the Australian Cheeseboard. In the milk category, Lactalis Australia’s Pauls Farmhouse Gold emerged victorious, while Gelateria Gondola’s Nocciola Piemonte and Cow and Moon’s Madagascan Vanilla Bean stole the spotlight in the ice cream and gelato divisions.

Chair of Judges, Tiffany Beer, commended the outstanding calibre of entries in this year’s competition, attributing the success to the industry’s commitment to excellence and continuous improvement in production techniques. Particularly noteworthy was the substantial increase in entries for the Research and Development class, reflecting the industry’s innovation and dedication to delivering cutting-edge products.

Beer also highlighted the impressive performance of non-bovine products, with Berrys Creek Gourmet Cheese’s Riverine Blue receiving acclaim as the champion non-bovine product, showcasing Australia’s capacity to produce world-class dairy alternatives.

Representing a true national effort, entries from across all Australian states contributed to the show’s success, with New South Wales, Victoria, and Tasmania demonstrating exceptional medal strike rates. The winners were commended for their contributions to advancing the Australian dairy industry and encouraged to continue their pursuit of excellence.

In a testament to the industry’s generosity, all remaining samples from the show were donated to the Addi Road Food Pantry in Marrickville, underscoring the commitment to giving back to the local community.

The winners of the 2024 Sydney Royal Cheese and Dairy Produce Show exemplify the pinnacle of dairy excellence in Australia, setting the standard for quality and innovation in the industry.

Winners of the 2024 Sydney Royal Cheese and Dairy Produce Show

Winners of the 2024 Sydney Royal Cheese and Dairy Produce Show

Full list of 2024 Sydney Royal Cheese and Dairy Produce Champions:

  • Champion Butter
    CopperTree Farms Cultured Salted Butter
  • Champion White Milk
    Pauls Farmhouse Gold, produced by Lactalis Australia
  • Champion Flavoured Milk
    Sharma’s Kitchen Milk Badam
  • Champion Cheddar Cheese
    Bega Cheese Rindless Vintage
  • Champion Specialty Cheese
    Berrys Creek Gourmet Cheese Oak Blue
  • Champion Cow Milk Cheese
    Bega Cheese Rindless Vintage
  • Champion Cheese of Show
    Bega Cheese Rindless Vintage
  • Australian Cheeseboard 
    • Bega Cheese Rindless Vintage
    • Lactalis Jindi President’s Camembert
    • Bruny Island Cheese Co. C2
    • Pecora Dairy Bloomy
    • Berrys Creek Gourmet Cheese Riverine Blue
  • Champion Full Cream Ice Cream or Gelato
    Gelateria Gondola Nocciola Piemonte
  • Champion Low/Reduced Fat Ice Cream or Gelato
    Cow and the Moon Madagascan Vanilla Bean
  • Champion Novel Ice Cream or Gelato
    Bulla Dairy Foods Creamy Classic Honeycomb Stick
  • Champion Yoghurt or Cultured Milk Product
    Gippsland Dairy Lemon Curd Twist Yogurt, produced by Chobani Australia
  • Champion Cream
    Mungalli Creek Dairy Biodynamic Pouring Cream Organic
  • Champion Sheep, Goat, Buffalo or Camel Milk Product
    Berrys Creek Gourmet Cheese Riverine Blue

 

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Local News

RIC hosting free online Drought Loan webinar

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RIC will host a free online Drought Loam webinar on Wednesday, 28 February 2024.

RIC hosting free online Drought Loan webinar

 

Australian Government farm business lender, RIC (Regional Investment Corporation) will host a free online webinar on Wednesday, 28 February 2024 for farmers, financial advisers, business planners and rural counsellors who are interested in learning more about how a low-interest RIC Drought Loan may be able to help prepare for, manage through or recover from drought.

As part of the online forum, RIC customer Tim Webb from Forbes, NSW will share experiences about how he and his wife, Jenny, used their Drought Loan to strengthen their farm business.

RIC Chief Executive Officer John Howard said farmers may be eligible to apply for a Drought Loan even if they are not currently in drought because the loan can also be used for activities that will reduce risk and prepare for drought.

“Whether farmers are currently in drought or between cycles, drought is never too far from their minds so knowing what financial options are available can make a difference to how quickly and effectively they manage through and recover,” Mr Howard said.

“Many farmers would be interested to know RIC’s Drought Loan is available for drought preparation activities like increasing water storage or improving water efficiency. This means even if farmers are not currently in drought but want to improve their drought resilience, they may be eligible if they have had a significant financial impact outside their control within the past 5 years.

RIC will host a free online Drought Loam webinar on Wednesday, 28 February 2024.

RIC will host a free online Drought Loam webinar on Wednesday, 28 February 2024.

“RIC loans can help to refinance or restructure existing farm debt to improve cash flow and provide access to new funding for operating expenses and capital expenditure,” he said.

Merino producer, Tim Webb is pleased to be available to help other farmers learn more about RIC loans. He will explain how a low-interest RIC loan helped his business to refinance part of their existing commercial debt during the last drought.

The Webbs were able to use the money they saved in interest payments to buy in grain to keep their breeding stock fed and their business running in preparation for retirement.

“The RIC loan kept us going through the drought and the interest pressures at the time,” Tim said.

“We’ve since been able to repay a big chunk of our debt, which has put us in a strong position as we approach succession planning and retirement – it’s been a game changer.”

To register for the free online RIC Drought Loan webinar, visit here. The webinar will be held on Wednesday 28 February 2024 from 12:00 – 1:00pm AEDT. If webinar participants are not able to attend on the day, a recording will be emailed after the event if they register in advance. For more on the RIC Drought Loan, please visit here.

 

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