Plans to deregulate national Johne’s disease management have been welcomed by long-time opponents of the existing control and eradication focused policies.
Australian Registered Cattle Breeders Association (ARCBA)’s BJD representative Alex McDonald said previous policies had caused huge emotional and financial damage to producers.
He said ARCBA was very pleased with the draft National BJD Framework Document, which proposes the removal of the state/jurisdictional regulatory controls on Johne’s, and makes the disease an on-farm management issue within a wider on-farm biosecurity program.
Mr McDonald said a recent MLA commissioned study showed that Bovine Johne’s Disease has the lowest economic impact of the 17 beef cattle diseases considered in the study.
“Since the discovery of the Bison strain of BJD on a Queensland property in 2012, AgForce and The Queensland Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries are guilty of a huge scare campaign that BJD was a risk to the live export market,” Mr McDonald said.
“While there is a requirement for a declaration for the export of cattle that there has been no evidence of clinical BJD on the property of origin in the previous five years, cattle breeders in states such as Queensland and Western Australia have been under a misguided view that the arbitrary classification that their respective state zoning of “Free” or “Protected” gave them some sort of advantage in the live export market.
“Nothing could be further from the truth as the eligibility to export cattle is based on an individual property BJD status.
“Any herd known to be infected with BJD and any property that had bought cattle from this property since the arbitrary year of 2005 had movement controls imposed so that they could not sell cattle other than for slaughter.”
Mr McDonald said the policy implemented by Queensland DAFF based on the advice of Cattle Council Australia under the National Standard Definitions, Regulations and Guidelines had caused huge emotional and financial damage to the owners of about 200 beef herds in Queensland as well as herd owners in NT and WA.
Acceptance of the proposed new National BJD Framework by states such as Queensland and WA would ensure “this never happens again”.
BJD Action Coalition representative John Gunthorpe said the final Johne’s disease strategy paper was a positive step forward.
“Hopefully (it) brings to an end the capricious prosecution of this damaging and stressful policy that has wreaked havoc on individuals in our industry in an unnecessary and cavalier manner,” he said.
“For nearly two decades we have been told that the disease will be eradicated and its spread slowed by this policy.”
He said the Queensland Government had followed the advice of AgForce and established a Protection Zone to eradicate Bovine Johne’s Disease (BJD), even though the disease was of low significance to industry.
“MLA and CCA have spent tens of millions of levy funds in developing websites and inaccurate tests, although more timely, and running committees to support the process and setting the groundwork for regions of Australia to stop competition for seedstock by constructing artificial barriers to entry.
“Thank you to all those who have supported the push to achieve this outcome. Your efforts were appreciated and its just so disappointing that it took so long for the obvious outcome to be realised. For a long time we have argued in the media that cattle producers should be entrusted with the responsibility of managing BJD and now they will be.”
Mr Gunthorpe said there will be opportunities for State Governments to maintain their borders and there were stud producers who wanted to use the disease as a tool to stop competition for personal gain.
“With BJD now known to emanate from Ovine Johne’s Disease, and with OJD endemic in WA and other regions of Australia, it is difficult to see how this policy could be prosecuted.
“However it has been in the past and while ever there is the opportunity for personal gain over the greater good, there will be those that will lobby for its continuation.”
Mr Gunthorpe is also concerned about the lack of provision for fair compensation for those impacted by past policy.
“It is now up to the State Governments and particularly Minister Bill Byrne in Queensland to finally launch the Biosecurity Fund and raise money from industry to fairly compensate the individuals who have borne the brunt of what has been the darkest period in our industry’s history.
“This has occurred during some of the harshest years faced by cattle producers.
“Many were sent to the wall by the combined effects of drought and the Protection Zone Policy of the Queensland Government.
“Compensation must be paid before we can put this chapter behind us.”