Letters to the Editor

Letter – The truth about Johne’s

Don Lawson, 01/08/2014

It’s time to tell in layman’s language the simple facts about the Johnes mycobacterium.

The main species is avium the birds.

The sub-species or off spring of the avium are ovine and the bovine strains.

These species can mutate.

The ovine or ‘s’ (sheep) strain is being found in cattle.

With the Queensland outbreak we have added two new strains the bison strain from India which went to Texas with Brahman cattle.

It ended up in Queensland when Brahmans were imported about 30 years ago.

Why has it taken so long to emerge?  Well that’s most probably due to the fact that the bacteria has two phases.

The first being an infection phase where the bacterium for all intents is inert until the immune system is stressed.

Once stressed the bacteria changes shape and becomes phase 2 of the disease which causes multibacillary lesions in the gut.

These disease bacteria are generally very slow growing but are shed intermittently which means the faecal culture test is unreliable.  You can test this week and there is no shedding – next week there may be shedding.

The whole Johnes policy is flawed as to run a soundly based health program:

  •  you need a reliable test and both the blood and faecal culture tests produce both false positive and negative tests;
  •  there is no cure – vaccination is a management tool that sheep farmers have but cattle farmers don’t yet have access to a vaccine;
  •  a survey to find out what you are dealing with should be undertaken – this was not done at the commencement of the policy. WA was supposedly free of OJD. It isn’t.Queensland is also claiming to be free of BJD.  IT IS’NT.  SA is putting in place a policy to eradicate OJD but already about 40 properties are quarantined.
  • The missing link in Australia is the failure to conduct a proper cost benefit study into the disease as per the example of our clever neighbours in New Zealand.

The facts are Australia has launched into a Johnes policy without the fundamentals of good policy planning.

This has caused enormous financial and social issues and at best estimate being the final straw to anxiety, depression and suicide to about 30 farmers.

To put seedstock business out of business without compensation must end.

It’s morally despicable in a civilised country.

It has no impact on overseas trade as is claimed and the main impact on humans is on the farm families caught up in this bureaucratic mess of incompetent science.

If we are having a royal commission into the flawed pink bats policy then surely we need an independent judicial inquiry into this. We have had 2 senate inquiries and 1 state inquiry which the bureaucrats have managed to con the politicians.


Don Lawson OAM





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