NT Johne’s policy means interstate cattle should continue to flow

James Nason, 17/05/2017
he new TRANSIT tool developed by CSIRO is identifying ways to cut the costs of transporting cattle—offering solutions that would reduce the vast distances travelled and the numbers of trucks on the road. The tool will be applied beyond the livestock industry for use more broadly in the agricultural and logistics sectors. Image: Frans de Wit/Flickr CC BY-NC-ND ( )

The NT Government has confirmed new Johne’s entry requirements to the territory from July 1. Image: Frans de Wit

It has been a long and evidently contentious journey, but the Northern Territory has now arrived at a clear position on how it will manage entry requirements for Johne’s Disease after July 1.

This is a policy of national importance, because it determines the extent to which the many cattle that flow into the territory from other States will continue to have access.

It is not uncommon for more than 100,000 cattle to be transported into the Territory each year from other States, mainly Queensland, for live export from Darwin, Australia’s largest cattle export port.

An estimated 12,000 bulls also sell into the NT each year from other States, while AA Co’s Livingstone abattoir is also creating new demand for slaughter cattle from interstate.

Through the current interim period that runs until June 30, the NT cattle industry has maintained a Johne’s Disease management position of JBAS (Johne’s Beef Assurance Score) 7, one of the most stringent levels of assurance.

Under a JBAS 7, any producer selling cattle into the Territory would require an on-property biosecurity plan signed off by a veterinarian and backed by a herd test to demonstrate freedom from Johne’s.

Under a JBAS 6, producers still require an on-property Biosecurity plan, but it does not need to be signed off by a veterinarian, and a herd test is not required.

The NT’s interim position of JBAS 7 had led to concerns that, were the NT to maintain that position after July 1, the flow of export and stud cattle into the territory would be dramatically curtailed after that date.

Johne’s is an issue of specific importance for northern producers who are long distances from domestic markets and who rely heavily upon access to live export markets. Several live cattle export markets including Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, and the Philippines require individual testing and/or property freedom status for a set time (often five years) for Johne’s disease.

In effect discussions to settle upon an industry policy have been a tug-of-war between minimising the risk of Johne’s infection in the NT and avoiding policies that would stifle existing levels of trade.

After negotiations over the past year involving the NT Government, the NT Livestock Exporters Association (NTLEA), the NT Cattlemen’s Association (NTCA), stud industry representatives, other States who trade with the territory and other stakeholders, the NT has this week settled on a minimum entry requirement policy of JBAS 6.

Northern Territory Livestock Exporters Association chairman David Warriner said the JBAS 6 position was arrived at after industry-wide consultation, involving the Government and many different players.

He said the NTLEA’s CEO Stuart Kemp in particular had played an integral role in achieving the JBAS 6 outcome.

“Stuart deserves particular credit for pulling it all together, because it didn’t look too good at the end of March (when an industry roundtable was held to discuss the NT’s position in Darwin).

“Had we ended up with a JBAS 7, it would have put incredible restrictions on exporters to bring cattle in from Queensland.

“Stuart certainly did a hell of a lot of good work towards this, he was an integral part of the discussion with Government, both the NT and Federally, and as a representative of the live exporters.”

The NTCA is rumoured to have argued during the ongoing negotiations in favour of adopting a long-term policy of JBAS 7 after July 1.

When asked what its position had been, NTCA CEO Tracey Hayes said the NT cattle industry had initially adopted a JBAS 7 because that was the default position nationally under the new deregulated Johne’s arrangements.

The NT cattle industry did not elect to be a JBAS 7, she said.

“We adopted the national default position, and we took the whole 12 months to work out what we were going to do.

“People take JD fairly seriously up here (because of live export market access issues surrounding Johne’s).

“We were taking into account as many risks as possible and doing our homework on how best to mitigate those, it took a while to settle at a position where it wasn’t going to impact on the flow of cattle into our port for live export, but also we were taking into consideration the import of bulls from southern areas.

“We were taking into a account a range of factors, we have two very distinct production systems in the north and south.

“The JBAS 7 position was the national default position.”

Ms Hayes said the NT cattle industry felt it was important to maintain a level of control in some form, and was comfortable with the JBAS 6 policy.

She said the NTCA was now working with the relevant agencies to ensure the biosecurity plans for properties were simple, workable documents, and not “war and peace”.

“We want to make sure that it is going to serve the purpose it is to serve, and add some value into biosecurity planning for individual properties.”

Deregulation had shifted the biosecurity responsibility down to paddock level, underpinned by on-property biosecurity plans.

However, deregulation did not mean simply “throwing your hands in the air and doing nothing”, she said.

There were still compelling reasons for producers to take the steps to protect their herds from Johne’s disease.

“Ultimately if there is a JD outbreak on a property, it is going to be very lonely and isolating for those producers, the level of Government assistance that was there under the previous model now does not exist,” she said.

“If you have a positive test for Johne’s you are out of the market for five years.

“It is a purely a commercial decision, if you are a bull breeder bringing bulls into the NT from known JD areas, it would be prudent to maintain a level of JD management in your herd.

“It is likely that there will be also producers (in the NT) who will want a higher level of JD management than JBAS 6.”

NT Government statement released today:

New industry-agreed NT biosecurity protocols for Johne’s Disease management

In a media statement issued today, the Northern Territory Government said the NT cattle industry has unanimously agreed an assurance level of Johne’s Disease Biosecurity Assurance Scheme (JBAS) 6 would best facilitate movement of cattle while maintaining biosecurity requirements consistent with live export requirements.

Department of Primary Industry and Resources Chief Veterinary Officer Kevin de Witte said NT properties are well placed to act by 30 June 2017 to maintain a JBAS of 6 under new biosecurity protocols for Johne’s Disease (JD) that will take effect from 1 July 2017.

The new regulations are in response to a national industry led framework for JD management that was implemented in July 2016 and agreement between NT livestock industries for the appropriate level of risk management to maintain property freedom from JD.

From 1 July 2017 the Northern Territory will have an entry requirement of JBAS 6 for all cattle, unless they are consigned direct to slaughter.

“To ensure a JBAS 6 score, Northern Territory properties will need to complete and implement a Farm Biosecurity Plan that manages JD risk before 30 June 2017,” Mr de Witte said.

“This is a straightforward process and there is no requirement for veterinary involvement or Check Testing to maintain JBAS 6.”

When the new national industry framework for JD management was implemented all Territory properties were given an interim JBAS 7 score for trading purposes for a 12-month transition period to 30 June 2017.

Territory properties that do not implement a Farm Biosecurity Plan by 30 June 2017 will automatically drop to JBAS 0, equivalent to the score of an infected and unmanaged herd.

“Industry considered how much assurance they would like to retain to minimise the risk of JD detections, which could significantly impact individual properties’ market access if detected,” Mr de Witte said.

“Producers need to be aware of the risk for acquiring JD when purchasing stock and can implement enhanced levels of assurances about the health of the livestock as part of their property biosecurity management plans.

“If vaccination is considered, then identification of vaccinated animals with a three-hole ear punch will be required.”

Further information on requirements for other species, resources and tools to assist with herd management is available on the Northern Territory Government Livestock movement’s webpage.


Further details provided by the NTCA on the new NT Johne’s policy:

Pending NT Government gazettal, the new Johne’s policy for the NT from July 1, 2017, will be:

  • JBAS 6 or above is required for importation of cattle in to the NT.
  • JBAS 6 for NT herds will be encouraged.
  • Maintaining JBAS 7 or higher to access WA will be a commercial decision by individual herd managers.
  • Managing risk of disease entry through breeding stock from the northern or temperate zones is the responsibility of the individual herd managers who may demand JBAS 7 or higher, or vaccination or other risk minimisation strategies.
  • An extensive, comprehensive and ongoing communication plan is implemented to inform and equip herd managers with the knowledge and tools to
  • Understand the risks and
  • Manage the new arrangements efficiently.
  • BJD is included in the general Biosecurity plan document which is simplified, web and paper–based, and supported with technical help. The detail of the Biosecurity Plans to be adopted by all producers needs to be further discussed and clarified as this is integral to the requirements of JBAS 6.
  • JBAS 6 Biosecurity Management Plans do not require veterinarian sign off.
  • Individual herd managers can add to the biosecurity plan to suit their own circumstances.
  • The NTCA says it supports a dispensation for direct consignment to slaughter for any status of cattle.
  • The NTCA says it support the use of a permanent mark plus a visual tag for identification of JD vaccinates.
  • Consequences of Johne’s detection: For herds selling cattle to live export markets the detection of BJD in the imported or local cattle has a very high consequence as current export protocols ban the export of cattle from the property for 5 years.
  • The risk of disease entry, especially from the north and inland Australia is very low.
  • The risk of survival and spread of the disease in NT herds is very low.
  • Herd biosecurity is now the responsibility of herd managers and the protection of their access to market with respect to disease, in particular BJD is now the responsibility of herd managers.


  • Further information: Contact NTCA (08) 8981 5976 or the NT DPIR (08) 8999 2006 or visit the Farm Biosecurity Australia and Animal Health Australia websites.




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  1. John Gunthorpe, 18/05/2017

    So much time and effort invested in the least significant disease faced by our beef production industry. Queensland government and beef producers spent an estimated $80 million prosecuting the Protection Zone policy in the last national strategy. This was on the advice from AgForce and Cattle Council to the Queensland Government to quarantine over 200 properties in traceback from 3 infected herds.

    There has never been fair compensation paid to those impacted by this traceback debacle. Despite over 20,000 animals tested none were found to be infected on quarantined properties. Some producers were forced to sell up their properties following over 2 years in quarantine. Costs continue but income ceases. We continue to fight for compensation for these producers.

    J-BAS is optional under the current plan for the management of Johne’s disease. The best approach is to ignore it. You need a biosecurity plan for those diseases that matter for the health of your herd. Johne’s disease should soon be removed from the OIE list of reportable diseases. When this happens producers will be able to euthanise animals experiencing weight loss and shedding without notification. Vets have advised clients to follow this approach in the past to protect them from the destruction of their business that would have resulted under the previous policy inflicted on our industry.

    In managing your beef business act in areas that matter. BJD does not matter and is insignificant to your production costs. Cattle Council developed the J-BAS option to throw a crumb to protectionists in WA. It is optional to provide a score on the heath certificate and should be ignored unless you need to export through Darwin in which case you can simply fill out a 6 and then ignore it.

    It is important that you DO NOT TEST for BJD. For 15 years WA has not tested and they claim to be free of BJD even though their sheep flock is endemic to OJD. We know that co-grazing cattle on country with an OJD infected sheep flock will result in the cattle becoming infected with Johne’s disease.

    Therefore if you do not test you will be free of Johne’s disease. You will then always be able to tick the box on your export documentation that you have not had a reportable case of BJD for the past 5 years. This requirement may also disappear from the forms when the OIE remove Johne’s disease from the list of notifiable diseases.

    John Gunthorpe
    BJD Action Coalition

  2. Wallace Gunthorpe, 17/05/2017

    I would encourage NT cattle producers to never test their herd for JD,why would you test and run the risk ( very very low risk ) of a positive and put your access to the export market in jeopardy ?
    JD is a disease of insignificance in the northern beef herds.
    Well done David Warriner and NTLEA for driving the common sense approach of the J BAS 6 instead of J BAS 7.

    Wallace Gunthorpe
    Chairman QLD BJD Action Coalition

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