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. https://www.animalhealthaustralia.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/J-BAS_final_Aug_2016-1.pdf
- 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.