Pastoralists need to be aware of Bovine Johne's disease

Cattle trucks are flat out on NT roads at the moment and according to Northern Terrtiory Cattlemen's Association president Tom Stockwell it's a sign of the economic times in the pastoral industry.
Cattle trucks are flat out on NT roads at the moment and according to Northern Terrtiory Cattlemen's Association president Tom Stockwell it's a sign of the economic times in the pastoral industry. Denise Flay Photography

THE NTCA conference has come and gone, the wet given over to the dry and the stock camps and choppers have cranked into action mustering breeder mobs for weaning and sale stock destined for markets, both domestic and export.

Along with the myriad caravans appearing from the south, the increasing number of cattle road trains are evidence of the significant economic activity based on the NT pastoral industry.

Export markets remain strong if volatile and the excellent wet season has set the NT herd and station enterprises up well for the coming year. Pasture yields are high, meaning plenty of energy for cattle, given adequate protein supplementation, but also presents a bushfire risk. Many pastoralists are busy putting in preventative breaks and burns to avoid disasters later in the year.

The good wet season also presents risks in terms of the state of the regional beef roads, which the industry relies on to get product to market and supplies out to the station.

The wet made sourcing of cattle for market impossible in many instances and now the poor condition of some roads makes transport expensive, slow and dangerous.

For example, truck drivers are saying that the Buchanan Hwy, a vital gravel link between the Victoria River District and Barkly Tablelands and the east, is as bad at either end as they can recall.

When it comes to northern development, surely time and money spent on maintaining and improving the road network is a solid base for all NT industries and communities. While it is a time of year for hectic mustering activity, station managers are also coming to grips with a fundamental change to the way disease risk and biosecurity issues generally are managed in the Australian beef industry.

As of July 1, individual enterprises will be more responsible for ensuring their herds and land resources are kept clean of weeds, pests and diseases.

They will do this partially through having a biosecurity plan to prevent introduction of such threats.

A topical example of this is Bovine Johne's disease. From July 1, the following rules will apply. As of June 1, 2017, the NTCA supports the adoption of the following position (pending NT Government gazettal):

JBAS 6 or above is required for importation of cattle into the NT.

JBAS 6 for NT herds will be encouraged.

Maintaining JBAS 7 or higher to access WA will be a commercial decision by individual herd managers.

Managing risk of disease entry through breeding stock from the northern or temperate zones is the responsibility of the individual herd managers, who may demand JBAS 7 or higher, or vaccination or other risk minimisation strategies.

An extensive, comprehensive and ongoing communication plan is implemented to inform and equip herd managers.

BJD is included in the general biosecurity plan document, which is simplified, web and paper-based, and supported with technical help. The detail of the biosecurity plans to be adopted by all producers needs to be further discussed and clarified as this is integral to the requirements of JBAS 6.

Individual herd managers can add to the biosecurity plan to suit their own circumstances.

The NTCA supports a dispensation for direct consignment to slaughter for any status of cattle.

The NTCA supports the use of a permanent mark plus a visual tag for identification of JD vaccinations.

The NTCA membership and board have been working and consulting widely for more than 12 months to develop a policy position to best protect and serve the needs of our industry and trading partners, in what has been a significant national policy discussion.

It is critical the pastoral managers understand the new requirements for them to be responsible for their herd biosecurity, including an on-property biosecurity plan.

Work is under way to develop an appropriate template for Territory producers and we are relying on our DPI biosecurity team to make sure these changes are as seamless as possible.

Topics:  biosecurity bovine johne's disease northern territory cattlemen's association tom stockwell

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