Emma Connors, Singapore/Jakarta – Inadequate compensation, vaccine hesitancy and the difficulty involved in reaching millions of farmers are hampering Indonesia's efforts to stop the spread of foot and mouth disease (FMD).
Indonesia's central government is rushing to slaughter animals that have the disease or have been in contact with it, and to vaccinate others.
It is offering up to 10 million Indonesian rupiah ($963) compensation for cows that have to be killed and 1.5 million for goats, sheep and pigs. But this is less than half the market value and represents what will be a loss of livelihood and savings for many farmers.
In Bogor, West Java, dairy farmer and breeder Ferry Kusmawan is a worried man. Foot and mouth disease has cut his herd by one third and he is unsure about the value of vaccination.
"A friend of mine had a cow that was free of FMD before it was vaccinated. Then it got sick and was slaughtered – so I don't know how effective vaccination is."
Indonesia has recorded 410,817 cases of FMD and 217,825 of these are active. As of Saturday, 5109 animals had been slaughtered. The government's tally shows 101 active cases in Bali. Australian tourists returning from the holiday island will walk across sanitation mats that contain a citric acid solution as Canberra steps up efforts to prevent the virus entering the country.
The pace of vaccinations is picking up – just under 100,000 doses were given in the last week to reach 634,573 by Saturday. Another 2.2 million doses are being distributed.
However, the government acknowledges there are obstacles. The vaccines have to be kept cold and there are not enough trained people to inject them. Some farmers are also reluctant to get their animals dosed.
In Bali alone, there are an estimated 600,000 cattle, 700,000 pigs and about 50, 000 goats that all need to get vaccinated. So far, just over 18,000 animals have been jabbed.
Mr Ferry estimates 60 per cent of the 3000-4000 cows in Bogor have been exposed to FMD. So far, 100 have died from the disease and 200 have been slaughtered to stop the spread. Mr Ferry has lost 10 of his 30 milking cows, each worth about 24 million Indonesian rupiah. He expects to receive between 4 million and 8 million IDR per cow in compensation.
"We expect our average loss for forced slaughter will be between 10 million and 18 million a cow," Mr Ferry said.
The inadequate compensation adds to the problems authorities face in detecting diseased animals and vaccinating others, said Ross Ainsworth, a semi-retired Australian vet who lives in Bali.
"There are about 100 head of cattle within 300-400 metres of my villa and some of those have red ribbons around their necks. That's the sign they have had a vaccine dose – so at least it's underway."
However, there are limited amounts of vaccine, three shots are required until an animal is fully protected – and first you have to find the cows.
Dr Ainsworth said of the estimated 15 million cattle in Indonesia, 95 per cent are owned by small farmers. To find 15 million cattle in Australia, you'd need to go to hundreds or thousands of farms. "Here, you have to go to millions."
Ross Ainsworth says everyone has to do their part to keep the disease out of Australia. supplied
"There are no tail tags or ear tags here. Farmers usually own one, two or three cattle. They keep them in their backyard overnight and take them during the day to graze."
Farmers are often older folk who prefer to store their savings in livestock as opposed to banks. These animals are much more than a beef cow, says Ainsworth, and their owners may oppose enforced slaughter, especially given the particular breed of cattle on Bali are small and resilient and are likely to recover from FMD.
Eventually, Indonesia will get the disease under control, but that is still some time away and will depend on vaccination rates, dr Ainsworth said.
"Until we have good vaccine coverage, the risk of transmission will be very high."
However, he does not believe the risk of the virus entering Australia is high enough to ban travel.
"Everyone has to do their part. Tourists have to scrub their thongs before they get on the plane home from Bali. Australian farmers have to make sure they don't let anyone on their land unless they know where they have come from. Anyone who lives on a farm and travels to Bali should stay in the city for up to a week before they go back home.
"It's up to every one of us to keep this out of Australia."
– with Natalia Santi