Livestock farmers in the Australian state of Queensland have welcomed a new government fund to tackle animal disease outbreaks.
The government launched the AU$5 million Queensland Cattle Industry Biosecurity Fund last week in response to recent outbreaks of Bovine Johne’s disease (BJD) in cattle in the state. The assistance programme will be made up of a AU$2m grant and a loan of up to AU$3m, which will be repaid by cattle producers through a voluntary levy.
Queensland Premier Campbell Newman said: “The loan will be repayable through the industry levy, but this is about getting an assistance program operating now that can help producers caught up with BJD and any further disease outbreaks in our beef industry in the future.”
Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Minister John McVeigh said priority would be given to helping businesses impacted by outbreaks of BJD.
“We’re aiming to provide affected producers with details over the next few weeks on how they can access support,” he said.
“The Newman Government does not expect individual producers to bear the cost of eradication programs that ultimately benefit all in the cattle industry.
“Industry wants to retain Queensland’s Protected Zone status for BJD and eradicate the disease from affected properties, and we’re making progress. I hope, with this funding, we will ensure we continue to reach this goal.”
Queensland livestock organisation AgForce said the fund was a “positive step” towards disease management in the state’s beef sector, pointing out that farmers were already facing difficulties as the result of restrictions put in place following the BJD outbreak.
“Producers across Queensland will suffer financial consequences as a result of the quarantine measures State Government has had to put in place as part of its obligation under the Stock Act to respond to notifiable diseases,” said AgForce general president Ian Burnett.
“It is right that these producers be assisted to help ease their financial burden.”
General manager of the Australian Brahman Breeders Association told the Australian press that the fund was “a good start”. However, he raised concerns that it would not be sufficient to cover the financial damage that quarantine control was causing cattle farmers.
BJD, a serious disease affecting cattle and ruminants, which causes chronic diarrhoea, leading to emaciation and death in some animals, was first detected on a Queensland beef stud farm in November. Investigations by Biosecurity Queensland revealed that 150 properties had received cattle from the farm, and movement restrictions were placed on almost all of these farms.
Testing is under way on samples taken from cattle, with the first round of results expected around mid-March 2013, and Queensland’s former chief veterinary officer, Dr Ron Glanville, has been appointed as an industry liaison officer to work with industry on the eradication of the disease.