Cattle Health Declarations: When and how should they be used?

Rachael O’Brien, Manager Biosecurity & Extension, Queensland , 16/10/2017

Cattle Health Declarations are documents which allow cattle producers to make an assessment of the health of new stock they may be purchasing and are becoming increasingly prominent in saleyards and producer-to-producer sales. In this contributed article, the Livestock Biosecurity Network’s Rachael O’Brien addresses when and how to make use of a Cattle Health Declaration.


Rachael O’Brien

The Cattle Health Declaration is currently gaining significant exposure as a tool for producers to address biosecurity concerns.

It’s a document that allows producers to make an assessment of cattle they might be purchasing and the biosecurity risk those cattle may pose. The Cattle Health Declaration is starting to be requested by producers buying cattle from studs and through saleyards. For many producers biosecurity is a new concept so it’s understandable that many producers have questions about the cattle health declaration.

Be sure to check out the table at the end of this article for a quick, easy to use guide on when to use a Cattle Health Declaration.

What is a Cattle Health Declaration and why should I ask for one when buying cattle? 

The Cattle Health Declaration is a tool that can assist producers in assessing the biosecurity risks of new stock being introduced to your property. It is designed to be used when animals are being bought and sold. It allows sellers to provide buyers with additional information relating to the health of the animals they are bringing onto their property. It is separate to the National Vendor Declaration waybill (NVD) because the questions on the NVD relate primarily to food safety, whereas the Cattle Health Declaration is animal health related.

Producers should request a Cattle Health Declaration to gather further information relevant to the health of their new purchases or incoming agistment stock. This helps producers manage the health of incoming animals as well as their existing herd.

When should I send a Cattle Health Declaration with my cattle?

When selling cattle it is recommended that you send a Cattle Health Declaration along with your sale cattle in most instances.

If a person requests a Cattle Health Declaration then you should provide one. Buyers actively managing animal health, participating in Johne’s Beef Assurance Score (J-BAS) or trading in Johne’s disease sensitive markets are likely going to want this document.

If you are sending cattle to a saleyard you should send a Cattle Health Declaration with your cattle.

How does the Cattle Health Declaration fit in with J-BAS?

If you are participating in J-BAS you should send and request this document as part of your risk assessment. Requesting this document when you buy cattle can provide additional information such as J-BAS level or if there is an increased risk of infection in the animals you are looking to buy. Having this information gives you the opportunity to manage the risk of Johne’s disease in incoming animals.

Are Cattle Health Declarations mandatory?

The Cattle Health Declaration is not mandatory unless your cattle are Northern Territory bound. This is an entry requirement of the Northern Territory Government. If you do not send this document with your cattle they will not be able to move into the Northern Territory until one is completed.

If you don’t provide a Cattle Health Declaration to buyers who require them to move the cattle after sale you could be limiting your markets.

When do I not need a Cattle Health Declaration?

If your cattle are going straight to the abattoir or to a feedlot, you will probably find they will not request a Cattle Health Declaration. The Declaration is for herd health management. Feedlots & abattoirs are more concerned with food safety issues so will be wanting to receive the NVD.

Where can I get a Cattle Health Declaration?

Cattle Health Declarations are available online at the Farm Biosecurity website.

How do I fill out a Cattle Health Declaration?

Producers should answer the questions honestly. You do not need to test for any of the diseases on the cattle health declaration but if you have done in the past you should describe your results on the form. Producers are making a declaration when filling out a Cattle Health Declaration. When the form asks for specific vaccinations or treatments it is asking if you have applied anything to the animals travelling to sale in the last six months.

If you are participating in J-BAS you should describe your J-BAS status in Question 6. Whilst the form says optional, it refers to the scheme of J-BAS being optional. If you have a J-BAS score you should record your score.

About Livestock Biosecurity Network

The Livestock Biosecurity Network (LBN) is an independent industry initiative founded in 2013 by the peak industry councils for cattle, sheep and wool. It is a subsidiary of Animal Health Australia, funded by Cattle Council of Australia.

LBN plays a role in managing on-farm biosecurity by working closely with producers and livestock industry members to provide tools and information to minimise the risks to the health, productivity and market access of livestock and maximising industry’s efforts towards avoiding food-safety concerns around chemical and veterinary drug use.


J-BAS Market Access

Quick Guide

Should I fill in a cattle health declaration? Do I need a J-BAS to trade into this market? J-BAS status required
Sending cattle to a Northern Territory property or for live export Yes – Mandatory Yes J-BAS 6 (to enter NT)
Sending cattle to slaughter to a Northern Territory abattoir Yes – Mandatory No Not required
Sending cattle to a Western Australian property Yes- Mandatory Yes From QLD/NT : J-BAS 7


Sending cattle to Western Australian direct for export or slaughter Yes-Mandatory Yes All states: J-BAS 6
Sending cattle into NSW/QLD Recommended No (unless your buyer requests J-BAS) Not required.

Note: if you bring JD infected animals or animals you believe to be infected into the state you must report this to Biosecurity Queensland

Sending cattle into VIC/TAS or SA Recommended No (unless your buyer requests J-BAS) Market driven
Cattle to Saleyards Recommended Contact Agent Contact Agent
Live export via Qld/NSW Recommended No Not required
Cattle direct to abattoir in QLD, NSW, VIC, SA, TAS No No Not required
Cattle to feedlots Recommended Contact Agent/Feedlot Not required





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  1. John Gunthorpe, 17/10/2017

    The Australian Cattle Industry Council (ACIC) had the following motion passed unanimously at recent meetings of its members in Boonah and Charters Towers –

    “J-BAS be immediately rescinded by Cattle Council and the scheme abandoned as it has no benefit to our industry and leads to additional red tape and cost.”

    Johne’s disease (JD) is the least significant disease cattle producers face. There is no accurate test, no cure and it is endemic in all countries with which we trade. Under the GATT rules, no signatory country can refuse entry of an animal due to a disease if that disease is endemic in their country. Beef and other beef products are unaffected by JD.

    A meeting of agents and AgForce was held in Toowoomba last week but was closed to invited parties only. The easy solution to Queensland saleyards is to have all stock declared J-BAS 6. This was the case at Charters Towers last week. At the Emerald sale (a sale was cancelled due to weather this week) they were asking for all vendors to record their J-BAS score on their NVDs so animals could be marshalled into separate parts for the sale.

    Livestock Biosecurity Network’s Rachel O’Brien will argue it is not the lost production cost we should be concerned about (only $300,000 in all of northern Australia) but the impact on markets for our live exports. These are not slaughter cattle exports as they only require to know if you have had a clinical case of JD in the last 5 years. As far as we are aware, there are only 3 studs in Queensland who could not meet this condition.

    So LBN are talking about live exports for breeding. Most of these markets require an Eliza blood test for JD prior to export. They can then be further blood tested on arrival into the country of import. Why then do we need a J-BAS score?

    We suggest J-BAS is only tracked for cattle to enter Northern Territory and WA. Why should there be an expensive national scheme to meet these states entry requirements. If they want to have animals tested before entry, then let them administer and pay for their trade barriers. Cattle producers are being asked to meet the cost of J-BAS so cattle can cross the borders into NT and WA.

    What is disappointing is that Cattle Council members of the JD Review Committee advocated for J-BAS and continue to support its adoption. They are acting in the interest of the WA and NT state farming organisations who are their shareholders and not the cattle producers of Australia.

    ACIC members strongly reject the J-BAS scheme and call for it to be immediately rescinded. ACIC is sustainably funded, member owned and will have its directors directly elected from the 15 cattle regions across Australia. We meet the Senate’s recommendations for the restructure of the grass-fed cattle producer peak council.

    John Gunthorpe
    Australian Cattle Industry Council
    0400 403 456

  2. Paul Franks, 17/10/2017

    Just another unnecessary piece of paperwork. For example the question about animal treatments.

    What does that have to do with animal health and why six months. So long as an animal is outside the WHP and ESI it is of no concern to the buyer. The people who thought this up should have thought of the buyer who is buying lots of cattle and selling them as well. He knows when he is selling nothing is within a WHP or ESI but to do it properly he is supposed to go searching through records back six months then what? Some animals might be treated, some may not be. Where is the space to fill all that information out? Or is it a separate form for each group of animals.

    The JBAS is a total farce. How can a PIC be classed as “clean” when it has never been tested? Logic would say everyone is infected until proven otherwise especially when BJD can not be detected in animals that are alive if those animals are not shedding. I was involved in some bull testing and I was told the only certain way to check for the disease was a post mortem. Young animals can have it and if they are not shedding there is no test to determine if they have it.

    Now I am beginning to see when people are talking about job creation. We have “Livestock Biosecurity Network” which is a subsidiary of “Animal Health Australia” which is funded by “Cattle Council Australia” which receives money from “MLA” which gets money from a compulsory producer levy. Absolute madness, it is just a huge bureaucratic machine that now is too powerful to do anything about.

  3. Sandra Baxendell, 17/10/2017

    Producers should get well in advance of buying the cattle and also ask for a copy of their Biosecurity plan to see how good it is and whether a vet has signed off on it.
    The plan may just be a template filled out and provide no real protection.

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