Letters to the Editor

Letter: Perception everything in BJD saga

John Gunthorpe, BJD Action Coalition, 18/09/2015

There is a strong suggestion that the BJD Review currently being conducted across the country will include in its new Management Plan to be published in October a statement that a watching brief should be kept by the beef industry on the progress of research on Crohn’s Disease.  This disease is a human condition in the gastrointestinal track that can lead to death.  There is no medical remedy for the disease only treatment options to maintain remission and prevent relapse.  You can read more at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crohn’s_disease.  It is not dissimilar to Johne’s disease in cattle but despite significant research over many years no causal link has ever been found between the two diseases.

While the vets and scientists involved in the BJD Review might consider it appropriate to maintain a watching brief while stating that there is no causal link, unfortunately those involved in marketing beef products and by-products to local and overseas customers have not been involved.

We have searched out other management plans for BJD in other beef exporting countries and, as you would expect, can find no mention of Crohn’s disease.  You can read the USDA voluntary management plan issued in 1 September 2010 at https://www.aphis.usda.gov/animal_health/animal_diseases/johnes/downloads/johnes-ups.pdf.

My concern is that PERCEPTION IS EVERYTHING when convincing customers to buy Australian beef.  If there is an official Australian document that mentions a human disease condition that is being watched in case a link is found, then this may be sufficient for the customer to look to other suppliers or to alternate meat products.  A customer could ask why do we include it in the BJD Management Plan if we do not consider there is a problem.  Why does Australia mention it and the USDA not?

While it has been important to have the State Chief Veterinary Officers and many other practising vets, cattle producers, Cattle Council Australia, Dairy Australia, etc involved in the review process, beef processing companies have generally ignored it as being beyond their area of operations.  This is understandable.  However we need them to now contact the person managing the process – Duncan Rowland of Animal Health Australia (drowland@animalhealthaustralia.com.au or 0419 891 494) to explain to him and his committee the damage he will cause to Australian Beef Exports if his review committee mentions Crohn’s disease in the new Management Plan.

Please understand this is a MARKETING issue not a scientific or veterinary issue.  All we ask is that we do not shoot ourselves in the foot and give a marketing advantage to other beef producing nations and other competing meat choices.


John Gunthorpe

BJD Action Coalition



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  1. Jacqueline Curley, 23/09/2015

    When will departmental and industry representation commonsense prevail and make BJD a management issue as per all the other disease challenges producers deal with in the beef industry.
    The longer this farce goes on the harder it becomes to rectify. Too many egos getting in the way.

  2. Wallace Gunthorpe, 18/09/2015

    Sandra,another point worth noting ! WA has not done any surveillance testing for BJD for 12 years and Queensland has 99% of it’s 19,000 beef producers that have never tested for BJD,who would know what the infection rate is in these states ?
    We do know that one herd out of forty four trace forwards tested from the 2012 incident found an unrelated positive to BJD.
    Using the same maths does this mean we could have 431 infected herds in QLD ?

  3. Wallace Gunthorpe, 18/09/2015

    Sandra needs to have a better understanding of the situation. BJD has never been eradicated from any country and because of it’s long incubation period,inaccurate testing,the fact that it is carried by numerous other animals and lives in the soil it never will be.
    WA claim to be free from BJD even though they have had some positive cases and their sheep flock is infected with OJD and we now know the sheep strain can cross over to cattle where these animals are co grazed.
    The new National BJD review should deliver responsible management of BJD without the stand over tactics of the past !

  4. Sandra Baxendell, 18/09/2015

    I agree consumer perceptions are critical. But this is all the more reason to increase efforts to control then eradicate Johne’s disease and to continue to protect those states where the current incidence of Johne’s disease is low. When Japan eradicates Johne’s disease, where will it look to buy its beef ? Hopefully from Qld & WA .

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