Producers tell of the impact of BJD outbreak

Minister For Agriculture John McVeigh talks to Colin Dunne of Raby Creek, Duaringa, in January about bovine johnes disease.
Minister For Agriculture John McVeigh talks to Colin Dunne of Raby Creek, Duaringa, in January about bovine johnes disease.

ALL facets of the bovine johnes disease outbreak were open for discussion at an Australian Beef Association meeting at Rockhampton this week.

The day-long meeting had talks from AgForce, Cattle Council of Australia, vets, vaccine developers and affected cattle producers, including the Kirks, of Rockley Brahmans, Bajool.

The biggest issue was whether to pursue keeping Queensland's protected status and opinions were divided across the board.

Ashley Kirk, Rockley Brahmans, was unsure of the best option but was adamant adequate compensation would be required if the industry decided to try to maintain protected status.

"It's very hard to make a decision on," he said. "I understand both sides of the story. As an industry, we need to work together to come up with a plan.

"If we must stay protected - and that's the outcome that industry wants - then obviously full compensation would have to be done there.

He said they were still able to sell to the meatworks but their stud business had come to a standstill and in the case of keeping Queenland's protected status they would have to build a new stud herd.

"Any chance of getting back to where we were would take six to 10 years," Mr Kirk said. "People don't like risks so, if they see that as a risk and they are worried about that, then there's plenty of other cattle to buy out there."

CCA BJD representative Nick Keatinge was adamant Queensland should attempt to keep its protected status for the time being.

He said up to 1000 properties could be affected in Queensland while keeping the protected status.

We've got to emphasise that it's not a big, sweeping syndrome taking over the industry.

"It's had plenty of time to be full-blown in Queensland," he said.

"But your environment, your extensive grazing systems and the biosecurity that's been put into place in the last 15 years, the movement controls, have been your best winner.

"So at the moment, unless they find it everywhere, why would you want to change (the protected status)? It protects all the big beef herds who trade into South Australia, the Territory and West Australia - they can continue trading without testing.

"Why would you want to go down this whole process (of testing) when we know you're relatively free?"

He said vaccination for johnes disease in his sheep flock on his property in Jugiong, NSW, was a great imposition.

"I've got enough weeds and disease where I live. I really don't want another one ... why would I want another one?" he said.

"You've got to be sure where you're buying your bulls or your commercial females from ... so if Queensland (loses protected status) that person selling that bull, if he wants to maintain his market, he's going to have to go to a market assurance program, he's going to have to start testing.

"That's another cost to industry that we didn't have."

However Emerald grazier and ABA past president Linda Hewitt thought pursuing the protected status was unnecessary and producers should be able to manage it themselves on the farm.

"We've got to emphasise that it's not a big, sweeping syndrome taking over the industry," she said.

"All the rain followed by massive heat has brought out the syndrome in some cattle and cattlemen of Australia are allowed to manage Lepto, which does affect human health.

Topics:  animal health, biosecurity, bjd, bovine johne's disease, livestock

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