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Australian cattlemen face up to new disease rules

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Oscar Rousseau

By Oscar Rousseau+


New biosecurity rules have been crafted to safeguard profitability
New biosecurity rules have been crafted to safeguard profitability

Australian cattle producers have just seven days left before deregulation to managing Bovine Johne’s Disease (BJD) comes into full force.

Under the relaxed regulation, the Johne’s Beef Assurance Score (J-BAS) – a risk profiling tool - would be lowered from J-BAS 7 to J-BAS 6 from July 1. This comes after a transitional framework for managing BJD launched in July 2016. The transitional period will end on 30 June.

It means farms infected with BJD are no longer subject to quarantine and cattle from these properties can be traded freely. The relaxed rule puts responsibility onto a new buyer to determine whether the cattle is suitable.

Roger Paskin, chief veterinary officer of biosecurity at the Department of Primary Industries and Regions South Australia (PIRSA), said: “Each cattle producer is responsible for determining what cattle are suitable to be introduced to their property. It is just as important to not offload clinically sick animals, whether it is BJD or some other disease such as pestivirus, by selling them through sale yards.

Safeguarding profit

Rob Barwell, acting executive manager of biosecurity and product integrity services at Animal Health Australia, said in a statement: “It’s important to remember that [the] key to this new framework is the implementation of robust biosecurity practices; practices which will safeguard the profitability of the cattle producer.

Recently developed, the J-BAS system is based on scores measured from a livestock producer’s historical exposure to BJD and perceived preparedness in managing disease risk.

The risk profiling tool has been adopted nationally but different Australian territories operate slightly different rules. Cattle travelling to Western Australia, for example, will need to score J-BAS 7 or 8. Whereas cattle travelling to the Northern Territory will need J-BAS 6.

Countrywide, the default position for any producer will be J-BAS 6 unless there is evidence of BJD infection in the last five years.

What is Bovine Johne’s Disease?

It is an incurable infection that can cause wasting and diarrhoea primarily in cattle, but also sheep, goats, camelids and deer. In cattle, the disease is caused by bacterium that lives in animal intestines. Many cattle are infected as calves but sometimes do not show symptoms for many years.

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