CATTLE producers are being reminded they do not need to test their herd for Johne’s disease unless they are trading specifically into a market that requires a test.
If in doubt, producers should make their own inquiries with their State Department of Agriculture before engaging their vet to organise testing.
Chair of Cattle Council of Australia’s Animal Health and Biosecurity Committee, Melinee Leather, said every producer has a responsibility to meet the requirements of the market they are supplying and should check each market’s specific requirements themselves.
Ms Leather, a producer for Central Queensland, said producers might wish to adopt the voluntary JD Beef Assurance Score (JBAS) tool.
“If for any reason producers want their herds to be JBAS 7 or 8 and accept the need for testing, that’s their choice.
“For other producers, if they’re not required to test their cattle for market-access reasons, they don’t need to test and can call their herd JBAS 6 provided conditions are met, like completing a simple on-farm biosecurity plan, which is now needed for LPA accreditation anyway – just remember to fill out the optional question covering JD”, said Ms Leather.
As an example of market-access rules, Western Australia requires JBAS 7 status (for cattle from NT and Qld) plus herd testing for cattle entering the WA herd, but only JBAS 6 and no testing if the cattle are destined for slaughter or live export ports. (Conditions apply for JD and a range of diseases so sellers should check WA’s ‘LB1 form’.)
“Producers selling cattle for export through WA would still need to be fully aware of the testing needs of the market to which the cattle are being sent – again, check with the Department if in doubt”, said Ms Leather.
For producers testing their herd, there are three options: the cheap but unreliable ELISA test, the more expensive but more reliable PCR test and the definitive faecal culture test.
ELISA is used to test for antibodies in the blood, the PCR test finds DNA of the bacteria in faecal matter and the culture test is used to grow the live bacteria so its presence can be confirmed, which takes three months). Vets can provide further advice.
While the ELISA test is often chosen because of cost, it is known to produce significant false positives, especially in northern Australia, and so is not recommended unless demanded by the importing country. (Because of its unreliability, WA has excluded the ELISA test as an option for cattle entering the WA herd.)
Ms Leather said if you are a producer and you want to access export markets, you’d be wise to guard against JD entering your herd, and one of the best ways of doing this is by buying with care. JBAS is a voluntary tool to help producers pass on JD information to buyers who ask.
“Together with the Livestock Biosecurity Network, Cattle Council has organised over 20 industry workshops across Australia to provide a forum for producers to discuss the new requirements for LPA registration; an average of 200 producers have attended these workshops.
“It’s been clear that attendees could see the benefits from documenting their on-farm biosecurity practices, which takes very little time per year.
“I encourage any producers yet to fill out their on-farm biosecurity plan do so now. It is a simple tool for self-assessing current biosecurity practices and will go a long way in raising awareness of how important biosecurity is to our industry’s future,” Ms Leather said.