Groups welcome change to painful Johne’s saga

James Nason, 09/11/2015

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.”


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Your comment will not appear until it has been moderated.
Contributions that contravene our Comments Policy will not be published.


  1. donald lawson, 09/11/2015

    this whole review is nothing but a set up to protect animal health Australia, Cattle Council, Queensland DAFF and Agforce. They set the terms of reference so as to exclude the issue of compensation from the review.
    Those badly damaged by the now-admitted flawed policy have been left to hang out to dry.
    It has taken over 20 so-called experts to come up with policy that was first proposed by the Australian johns alliance 20 years ago. Only one would have had on farm experience with the disastrous testing process and the related stress this review exercise has cost producers levies and tax-payers mega-bucks it makes the bishop helicopter event a non event.
    Once again it was us producers who paid their way, staying in the luxury hotels selected for the review.
    The real issue is that the MAP program still goes on producing false positives and destroying farm business without compensation. This Johnes program that has seen between 30 and 60 farm families having to deal with suicides over the last 20 years, the MAP should have been stopped in its tracks on day 1 AS THERE IS NO RELIABLE TEST.

    Beef Central’s thousands of readers need to aware that Animal Health Australia and Cattle Council failed to make submissions. Ask why…

    Where is the cost benefit study to back their actions?

    Only a Royal Commission will bring out the truth and see that justice is delivered to our fellow producers, and to see that such a policy is never repeated


    Don Lawson, Australian Johnes Alliance

  2. Wallace Gunthorpe, 09/11/2015

    Thank you to all those that have supported our fight for change.This will be a good outcome for all.
    It is a shame that AgForce,QDAFF and QDO have been so slow on the uptake.
    The Finlay/Hill report failed our industry,they had a chance to correct a huge injustice caused by the current BJD policy but failed to see daylight even though they were provided with ample evidence.
    A lot of damage has been done to a lot of people over a long period of time.
    AgForce’s priority should be to help us establish a bio security fund so the Queensland industry can compensate quarantined producers for the damage done by a policy endorced and driven by AgForce.
    Wallace Gunthorpe
    BJD Action Coalition

Get Beef Central's news headlines emailed to you -