Cattle producers on the frontline of clean and dirty tick areas say they are being forced to shoulder an increasingly significant management burden to keep ticks under control as key Government resources are gradually withdrawn.
Cattle ticks are the most serious external parasite for Australia’s beef and dairy cattle industries, with the potential to kill cattle via the spread of tick fever.
The issue of managing ticks has come into sharper focus in recent years after a run of good seasons exacerbated the expansion of tick populations, and the increased prevalence of flood damaged fences made it harder to control cattle between clean and dirty areas.
Last week more than 50 beef producers in the Durong, Boondooma and Brigooda area of southern Queensland met to air their concerns about the increased rates of infected properties being recorded on the clean side of the line, and particularly on properties adjoining the line.
The group reformed the Boondooma Cattle Tick Control Committee, which has not met since the last time the tick line was area moved in the area in 1998.
“With the tick issue so potent in the area at the moment, producers agreed to reform the committee as a vehicle for expressing their concerns,” committee president Tom Seiler said.
Mr Seiler said the overwhelming feeling expressed at last week’s meeting was that beef producers on the line were bearing the lion’s share of cost, time and effort keep the southern country clean.
In some places, due to contentious movements of the tick line, a single fence line was now all that stood between clean and tick-infested country.
Drastic cutbacks in Government resources had compounded the problem.
Three biosecurity officers in the immediate area had recently received voluntary redundancies, and feedback suggested it was doubtful they would be replaced.
Anecdotally producers were also aware of numerous cases where neighbours had not receiveding adequate notification of a nearby outbreak due to lack of resourcing at departmental level, which increased the difficulty of managing outbreaks as they occurred.
Reductions in the operating hours of clearing dips had further contributed to the problem.
“Given the effort involved in staying clean, some producers wonder if they wouldn’t be better off going back dirty and just mitigating ticks,” Mr Seiler said.
“People who are well behind the line would most likely never even consider ticks in their management.
“In a world without a functioning tick line, these people would have to undertake drastic and costly changes to their management strategies."
The cost shouldered by producers when outbreaks occurred on the clean side of the line was significant.
“In one case of tick outbreak in clean country, a stud incurred estimated losses of $150,000 in stock and potential income plus the expense of treatments for several years,” Mr Seiler said.
“The chemical cost alone could be as much as $20 per head per year and a program may easily run for three years.”
The committee has written to the State Government with five specific requests:
- That the tick line on the Weber boundary be put back to where it was originally intended and agreed to by the landholders at the time the tick line was gazetted.
- That Boondooma Clearing Dip be reinstated to full services – open five days a week with a permanent stock inspector stationed at Boondooma Stock Office.
- That penalties are enforced for stock encroaching from either side of the buffer zone in areas where there is a clear buffer zone on the tick Line.
- That the Queensland Government resumes its responsibility as the legal authority in maintaining the integrity of the tick line and the inspection of stock and not continue down the path of having biosecurity zones where producers do their own inspections and treatments.
- That the Government increase the acaricide chemical subsidy for affected producers on the tick Line and inside the affected area up to 100pc from the existing 10-35% subsidy of the acaricide cost.
The nearby Kingaroy Tick Control Committee had also reformed in response to the same issues about the integrity of the line.
To view a map of the tick line, click here The southern boundary of the tick line follows the Queensland-NSW border.