Defining the cost of Qld’s BJD outbreak

James Nason, 25/06/2013

The Queensland Government has estimated the likely cost of the current Bovine Johne’s Disease incursion to the State’s beef industry, government and economy at between $6.5 to $7.5m.

The government is set to release a report in coming days which will detail the estimated economic cost of the disease under both the existing Protected Zone policy and the predicted costs under a producer-managed scenario.

Queensland’s chief biosecurity officer Dr Jim Thompson told yesterday’s BJD forum in Brisbane that it was very difficult to analyse full costs under both scenarios, but departmental analysts had attempted to cost both scenarios following questions  raised at the previous BJD forum in March.

The full economic analysis is yet to be released but Dr Thompson said it estimates the likely cost to the Queensland beef industry, Queensland Government and Queensland economy from the current outbreak at between $6.5 to $7.5 million. He said the figure relied upon many assumptions, and ackowledged there were many differing views on what the true cost would be.

The second scenario looked at the cost to the same sectors if BJD was managed as an endemic disease in the state.

That scenario was harder to cost because of the uncertainty surrounding how a switch to a producer managed approach would impact on import protocols in particular markets, and which markets may or may not be available under such a scenario.

Dr Thompson did not detail the result of the second scenario analysis, with those findings expected to be released when the report is made available.

He said access to export markets would not necessarily change for Queensland producers if the state shifted to a producer managed approach because most of the 42 countries that require imported cattle to be free of BJD require that to be demonstrated at individual property level – which is the same for properties in southern states.

While Queensland’s Protected Status under the National BJD Control Program provides a level of confidence about the prevalence of BJD in that State’s cattle herd, it did not provide guaranteed access to export markets because freedom from BJD still had to be proven at property level.

Were Queensland to move to a producer managed system, Dr Thompson said, infected properties would not simply be able to trade as normal, he said.

“There is a view that If we move to a management area there is going to be a significant change to a lot of the requirements that we currently have,” Dr Thompson said.

“What it shows is that even if we go to a management area there is still an expectation on producers to meet a whole lot of requirements under a national program.”

Dr Thompson said the department had also conducted modelling to predict how the current BJD incursion would spread if the disease was left uncontrolled in Queensland.

“Basically in a 10 year time frame, if it was 10 years ago today that (the Rockley detection) had happened, we would expect that we have had between 34 and 143 herds infected in Queensland.

“We’re currently sitting on four confirmed and we have 17 positives, but we are well below what we might have expected if this was out of control in Queensland.”


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