Moves to achieve a single, national, uniform approach to managing Johne’s Disease across the Australian beef cattle industry have run into a road block, with Western Australia confirming today it will not adopt the national framework accepted by other States last year.
In July 2016 all other Australian States and territories, with the exception of WA and the Northern Territory, deregulated management of Johne’s Disease, following the recommendation of the revised National Johne’s Disease Framework.
The new framework, which followed an extensive period of consultation with industry and Government stakeholders, recommended against States and Territories continuing with a regulatory approach to managing BJD, in favour of handing responsibility for managing the disease over to producers at farm level.
BJD is managed under state legislation.
Under the previous zone-based approach to regulating BJD across Australia, Western Australia was the only State to be classified as “BJD free”.
WA Government and industry see an advantage in protecting and maintaining the State’s reputation as a “BJD free” area.
The WA cattle industry, through the State producer-levy funded WA Cattle Industry Funding Scheme Management Committee (IMC), has agreed to fund the cost of border controls, surveillance and control of BJD should an infected herd be found.
Studs or commercial cattle producers in other states who wish to sell or move cattle to Western Australia will be required to undergo a level of testing as required by WA Government.
The IMC said the revised interim border controls will protect the WA cattle herd from BJD, while allowing risk-based cattle movements in line with the needs of WA businesses.
Details of the new border controls can be found at www.agric.wa.gov.au/livestock-biosecurity/forms-importing-livestock-western-australia in the Livestock Biosecurity Form LB 1.
Northern producers seeking to import bulls for the pastoral industry will be able to continue this practice whilst minimising the risk of importing disease as the new import requirements give equivalent levels of assurance as previous controls.
The IMC said the WA BJD program will include “extensive on-ground surveillance and eradication of the disease, if it is detected”.
It said the decision to undertake a regulatory program was made following industry feedback and an economic evaluation of the potential impact of deregulation of BJD management.
“Although the economic evaluation helped the decision-making process, it did not make a strong case either way,” IMC chair Steve Meerwald said.
“The response from industry was key in deciding to regulate this disease in order to maintain WA’s negligible BJD prevalence and access potential BJD sensitive markets,”
“A deregulated environment can never be turned back.
“However, we can deregulate in the future if there is a major detection that requires a re-think on our policy, or the industry decides that the cost of regulation and a formal surveillance program outweighs the benefits.”
The IMC said BJD causes chronic wasting and incurable diarrhoea in cattle leading to death, and caused reduced production levels even before the animal is noticeably unwell.
It recommends that producers should still maintain suitable biosecurity measures in place to protect their herds, in addition to the continued regulatory approach.
Animal Health Australia oversaw the review process that led to the recommendation for a single, national approach across Australia last year.
“From an AHA perspective we are a bit disappointed that industry and Government (in WA) have walked away from the agreed outcomes of the review,” AHA CEO Duncan Rowland told Beef Central today.
“We understand why they are doing it, but I think they are missing the point a little.”
He said the WA industry believed it was free of Johne’s disease in cattle.
“We don’t know that, because we haven’t seen any surveillance data yet in relation to that.
“They say they are going to be undertaking surveillance. That is a positive, we look forward to seeing the outcomes.”
He said the approach taken in the national framework delivered producer-driven biosecurity, rather than Government-driven.
“The important thing is that Governments have reacted to what industry wanted. They are doing what their industry has requested, and Governments are there to do that.
“That is a positive thing, the issue is that it was driven by industry and the industry has walked away from what they had agreed to.”