Field days a time for reflection
The Wimmera Machinery Field Days provides the farming community with an occasion to reflect on the season that has been, and critically, the season that lays ahead.
This year when the rural community walks through the gates at Wimmera Events Centre at Longerenong it will also be considering how much of an impact a release of a new strain of calicivirus will have on rabbits in the region.
The national release of RHDV1 K5, a variant of a virus already established and widespread across Australia, is happening today, and represents yet another milestone in the country’s never-ending war against the virulent pest.
As part of the nationally co-ordinated release, landowners working with Agriculture Victoria will release RHDV1 K5 at 150 sites across Victoria.
Pest rabbits are Australia’s most destructive agricultural pest animal, costing $200-million in lost agricultural production every year, with a further $6-million spent on rabbit-control measures.
Pest rabbits also impact the environment.
A Threat Abatement Plan released by the Federal Government’s Department of Environment and Energy in January found pest rabbits were a significant threat to biodiversity, affecting 304 nationally threatened plant and animal species.
Pest rabbits are not only a regional issue, with the pests showing up in many urban environments such as sports grounds, gardens, along easements, urbanised riparian areas and urban remnant bushland areas. While farmers and environmentalists applaud the release of the deadly new virus strain, Victoria’s acting chief veterinary officer Dr Cameron Bell has reminded commercial rabbit farmers and pet rabbit owners to make sure their animals are vaccinated against the disease.
Dr Bell said the current calicivirus vaccine administered by vets was expected to provide protection of commercial and pet rabbits against all strains of calicivirus.
The original release of calicivirus in 1995 had a significant impact on Australia’s wild rabbit population.
Scientists expect results from today’s release to be less dramatic and be simply part of an overall management strategy for the pest.