The owners of five Kimberley cattle stations being tested for Bovine Johne’s Disease have welcomed plans to partially ease export restrictions on their properties.
Each of the affected properties purchased bulls from a Queensland cattle stud where BJD was detected last year and will remain under movement restrictions until mustering and testing processes are able to clear their herds.
Affected producers have been concerned about the fact that even though their properties are technically BJD-free at this point, they have been told they cannot send cattle to export markets, effectively cutting off their only source of income.
However under new plans discussed between the Department of Agriculture and Food representatives and pastoralists last Friday, no entire properties would be excluded from sending cattle overseas.
Kimberley pastoralist Haydn Sales told ABC Radio in Western Australia after the meeting that isolated areas of each property will be placed under movement restrictions, while the rest of the property would be cleared to export.
Mr Sales said the affected properties were all well fenced and professionally run and owners could identify high risk areas where bulls from the infected Queensland stud had been running on each property with certainty.
It is understood that DAFWA is now working with affected station owners to establish which areas of properties should remain under restrictions to enable station-wide bans to be lifted.
DAFWA is waiting to confirm the result of a recent BJD positive test on one Kimberley bull.
The state currently has an eradication focused policy on BJD in order to protect its BJD-free status, however some Kimberley cattle producers are questioning whether this should continue if BJD is found to have established in the state.
Queensland says industry still behind eradication campaign
Meanwhile, the Queensland Government is also progressing with its eradication-focused campaign to maintain the State’s ‘Protected Zone’ status.
In a press release issued on Monday, the Queensland Government said a meeting between Government and industry leaders to discuss the future of the state's response to BJD supported a continued eradication policy.
Queensland agriculture minister John McVeigh said that, despite serious issues with drought, bushfires and particularly the wet season failure in the north and northwest, the meeting guided the Minister and his Department to continue working with producers to eradicate BJD.
"There is no desire from cattle producers and the government to change its current approach to eradicating BJD from Queensland and we are listening to the industry," Mr McVeigh said.
"However, there are a number of issues they want to see addressed, including the need for greater support for large beef properties in the north and northwest which are doing it tough, with the chances of good rains quickly fading.”
“Producers have asked for more flexibility in finding pathways for slaughter cattle and the movement of store cattle from quarantined properties for finishing. This is a major issue at the moment with most southern feedlots at capacity and many of northern steers underweight and unsuitable for slaughter.
Mr McVeigh said that since late November when some 170 properties were initially quarantined, the department has run extensive testing programs, conducted regional meetings and workshops and been able to remove more than 100 properties from the quarantine list.
“My Department will continue working with producers and industry to see what restrictions can be eased without compromising the eradication program,” he said.
“Affected producers are looking at what financial support is available and I am working through proposals now on an industry transaction levy to underpin the $5 million Queensland Biosecurity Fund announced by the Premier earlier this year.”
Mr McVeigh said DAFF staff were making good progress with almost 7200 samples from 4500 animals tested. Currently 60 properties were under movement restrictions.
"We have four confirmed infected properties and another eight that need further testing,” he said.