Nutrition / Animal Health

Johne’s Q&A: 27 common producer questions answered

Beef Central, 26/06/2017

To assist producers and stakeholders in understanding forthcoming changes relating to Johne’s Disease in cattle, Animal Health Australia has provided the following information and answers to frequently asked questions:

What is Johne’s disease?

Johne’s (pronounced “Yo-nees”) is an infectious bacteria. It’s a serious wasting disease that affects cattle and other ruminants and primarily affects the intestinal tract.

Johne’s disease (JD) bacteria affect animals by causing a thickening of the intestinal wall resulting in a reduction in the absorption of food. The infected animal is hungry and eats, but cannot absorb any nutrients. This results in wasting and finally death. Diarrhea and bottle jaw are also common signs in cattle. It can take many years from first infection to when these signs occur, and animals can shed bacteria in their manure in the meantime.

What is a Johne’s Beef Assurance Score (J-BAS)?

It’s a risk profiling tool developed for use in the new approach to Johne’s disease (JD) in beef cattle. The scoring system is from 0 – 8 (0 being ‘Unmanaged risk’, 8 is ‘High Assurance’). There is also a Dairy Score for dairy cattle with a similar range of scores that have been designed to line up directly (i.e. Dairy Score of 6 should signal an equivalent JD risk as J-BAS 6).

The scores have been developed to allow a producer to assess the risk of a herd for JD and are based on having a biosecurity plan for the property. Producers should ask further questions if worried about JD, and not just focus on the score alone.  There is a checklist on AHA’s website to help with questions that could be asked.

Why was the J-BAS system created?

The new national approach to JD management treats the disease as just one of many that producers must manage within their business. Producers are now more responsible for the implementation and management of an on-farm biosecurity plan and practices (not just for JD), which enables producers to take control over their own productivity and profitability.

Producers are encouraged to make commercial decisions taking into account the risks (and opportunities) associated with the livestock they are thinking of purchasing and selling.

Who owns J-BAS (Johne’s Beef Assurance Score)?

CCA (Cattle Council Australia) owns the J-BAS tool and is also responsible for national beef cattle industry policy. AHA (Animal Health Australia) manages the tool, based on CCA guidance.

Is J-BAS voluntary or mandatory?

J-BAS is a voluntary tool. It has however, been referenced in WA and NT entry requirements, so is necessary for entry into those markets. Under J-BAS, each producer is responsible for their own risk management.

For further information about entry requirements, visit the WA and NT websites:

Information about the WA and NT requirements are  also available at the following link

What will happen if I don’t have a biosecurity plan by 30 June 2017?

Over the past 12 months, all herds were given a J-BAS Transition Score based on the zones they were in under the old system. Herds in NSW, Qld, NT and northern SA were given a Transition Score of J-BAS 7, as were herds known as Beef Only.  All herds in WA were given a Transition Score of J-BAS 8.  These Transition Scores expire on 30 June 2017.

Without an on-farm biosecurity plan from 1 July 2017, herds with a transition score of 7 or 8 will become J-BAS 6. (Herds which have had a clinical case of Johne’s disease within the last five years are not eligible for the default score of 6 and will transition to a score 0, 2 or 4 depending on the time since the last clinical case.)

In an important update, producers have an opportunity to return their herds to J-BAS 7 or 8 by implementing a biosecurity plan straight away (overseen and signed by their veterinarian) and conducting the first of their triennial check-tests by 30 June 2018 with clear results.

Why should I complete the ‘On-farm biosecurity plan template’?

The most effective way to manage the risk of pests and diseases gaining a foothold on a property is through implementing a biosecurity plan. A biosecurity template covers many activities that you will already be doing on your property as biosecurity precautions, such as regularly inspecting stock and fences. The template is a tool for you to use, so that you start documenting those activities.

You should ideally create an ‘action list’ when doing your plan and aim to make improvements in biosecurity practices where possible throughout the year, and review the plan on an annual basis. A ‘reference documents’ column has been listed in the template, which provides useful resources for establishing a good biosecurity plan. You should store all necessary documentation with your plan (e.g. treatment records, paddock records, etc.) so they are easily accessible; not all the reference documents may be necessary for your operation.

To maintain a score of 7 or 8, the On-farm biosecurity plan template must be signed by a veterinarian. The template on our website meets the requirements for LPA accreditation as well as J-BAS (providing the JD section is completed). It can be found here.

Where do I find a biosecurity plan template?

The On-farm biosecurity plan template has been developed to help producers with developing a plan and can be found on the Animal Health Australia website here.  Other acceptable templates exist (e.g., LBN’s template, the vet BioCheck), but this is the template offered for general use.

If I answer ‘no’ to any of the template questions will this affect my score?

No, the template is a guidance document for you to manage your on-farm biosecurity risks and improve your biosecurity practices. Some elements may not be applicable to your management system. Anything ticked ‘no’ can be improved over the next 12 months and occasionally some issues will be extremely difficult to resolve, but it’s good to record your awareness of them.

Where do I submit my biosecurity plan?

There is no requirement for formal lodging of the plan. It is to be stored somewhere easily accessible so you can refer back to it when required or produce it when requested.

The J-BAS is voluntary and assists with management of JD risk; the plan is to assist you in having biosecurity measures in place. The plan is intended to be routinely reviewed so that you can improve your biosecurity practices where required.

What does ‘Vet oversight’ mean?

Veterinary oversight means the vet has given the person filling out the plan advice on biosecurity risks for the property and how best to manage those risks.  The vet’s signature is only intended to say the vet has had the discussion, which could be had by phone, with the signature collected when the producer is next in town. A scanned, emailed version would be OK.

How is the deadline being enforced?

J-BAS is a voluntary self-declaration. There is no central authority signing off on plans; however buyers, markets and jurisdictions with entry requirements may request a copy of your plan.

At this stage producers are urged to their plans by 1 October 2017 when it’ll be a requirement for LPA accreditation.  Doing the plan with the optional JD section filled in will mean LPA will be covered when the time comes.

Is a register of J-BAS herds being kept?

No. J-BAS is a voluntary self-assessed scheme with the plan being held by the producer.  There may be support in the future for J-BAS 7 and 8 being held on a voluntary register for marketing purposes.

How do I know what score I should give myself?

The scores are based on the likelihood of a herd’s previous exposure to JD and a producer’s preparedness in managing risks. The score sheet can be found on the JD in cattle tools page.

What score should I aim for in my business?

Many producers may decide JD is not a disease they are worried about with their business.  In this case, a J-BAS score may not be relevant; it’s the producer’s choice, but be sure your market access won’t be affected.

If you are a producer who accesses the WA market or are likely to sell cattle to a producer who accesses the WA market a high level of assurance is recommended (7 or 8 depending on where the cattle are coming from).

If you are a producer who accesses the NT market or are likely to sell cattle to a producer who accesses the NT market you should aim for at least a J-BAS 6.

J-BAS is an industry tool and is not a requirement of international exports. Countries have their own import requirements that you will need to meet to access such markets.

Why do I need a veterinarian?

To obtain a J-BAS score of 7 or 8, your biosecurity plan must be checked and signed by a veterinarian and have undertaken a ‘Check test’ by 30 June 2018 with negative results. Without veterinary oversight of a plan you will not be eligible for scores 7 or 8.

Where veterinary engagement is required, a veterinarian’s role is to discuss and assist in the management of biosecurity risks, appropriate to the individual farm. They should also be consulted for any JD management issues and will be required to collect the samples for testing.

Does anyone provide training on J-BAS?

There is help with biosecurity planning available, but not on J-BAS specifically. See resources on the JD in Cattle webpage. Vets do not need additional accreditation or training to sign a biosecurity template for producers wishing to maintain a J-BAS score 7 or 8.

A vet must sign that they have discussed biosecurity risks with the producer and will assist in the management of these risks when required. Vets may do the Market Assurance Program training (previously required for CattleMAP) for some general information about JD and the laboratory tests, but it is not essential for J-BAS.  Information for vets can be found at:

What is a ‘Check test’?

To maintain J-BAS 7, producers must undertake a ‘Check test’ of samples from at least 50 adult animals within the herd (or in a herd of less than 50, all eligible animals). This test is done every three years for maintaining a score of 7 or 8. Producers need to do the first one by 30 June 2018 but should leave ample time to do it so that lab capacity is not an issue.

If the Check Test is not done by 30 June 2018, it’s likely a series of Sample Tests (much more expensive) will be required to lift a herd to J-BAS 7 or 8.

Do I need a Cattle Health Declaration?

Although not mandatory for J-BAS, a Cattle Health Declaration is for use by producers to assess the animal health information about animals they may wish to buy.  Some states have mandated its use for cattle entering (NT, SA) while it is recommended that the form should be both supplied by the vendor and requested by the buyer for all cattle sales. You can find the form here. Where the National Vendor Declaration form (NVD) is used for food-safety issues, the Cattle Health Declaration is the main method for transferring information about the health of the animals being traded.

What about my sheep?

Cross species infection of Johne’s disease can occur. A clinical case of JD in sheep (or goats and alpacas) on your property will affect your J-BAS. Ways of minimising the risk include: not co-grazing (especially with younger cattle), knowing the disease status of the sheep and/or vaccinating the sheep with Gudair.

What if I just have a milking cow?  Is this co-grazing with dairy?

The risk of transferring JD from a milker is very low.  First the milker has to be infected and shedding and then has to graze consistently with beef cattle, which is rarely the case.  Nevertheless, it should be considered when working out risk.

What is the Livestock Production Assurance (LPA) program?

The Livestock Production Assurance (LPA) program is the Australian livestock industry’s on-farm assurance program covering food safety, animal welfare and biosecurity. It provides evidence of livestock history and on-farm practices when transferring livestock through the value chain.

Who manages the LPA program?

The Integrity Systems Company, a Meat & Livestock Australia subsidiary, now administers the program on behalf of industry. For more information please see their FAQ:

What are my biosecurity requirements under LPA from 1 October 2017?

From 1 October, LPA accredited producers will be required to meet biosecurity and animal welfare requirements, and complete a three-yearly assessment in order to be LPA accredited. Under the biosecurity requirements, LPA accredited producers will need to confirm they have a Farm Biosecurity Plan and implement best-practice biosecurity practices in their on-farm management. Producers who have already developed an on-farm biosecurity plan as part of their approach to Johne’s disease management are not required to complete another:

Is the AHA on-farm biosecurity template suitable for LPA accreditation?

Yes, it is suitable for LPA accreditation as it addresses all the elements of the National Biosecurity Reference Manual – Grazing Livestock Production.

Do I need to indicate my J-BAS score on my LPA NVD?

No, but you are encouraged to use the Cattle Health Declaration to convey your J-BAS score to potential buyers.

Is knowing your J-BAS score a requirement of LPA?



Biosecurity plan templates:

On-farm biosecurity plan template – For producers to work through, with links to supporting documents to access and fill in as required. An additional action list, outlining biosecurity activities to be undertaken over the next 12 months, would help to make this a robust on-farm biosecurity plan specific to the property

Livestock Biosecurity Network On-farm biosecurity plan template – The On-Farm Biosecurity Plan (including Johne’s Disease) is a template that producers can use to custom-build an on-farm biosecurity plan specific to their property

JD in Cattle tools:

Cattle Health Declaration – National animal heath declarations are a way for producers to provide information about the animal health status of their flocks and herds. Buyers should ask for a copy and use the information provided to determine the health risks associated with the animals offered for sale

J-BAS assurance score – The Johne’s Beef Assurance Score (J-BAS) is a risk profiling tool developed for use in the new approach to Johne’s disease (JD) in beef cattle

Johne’s disease score in Dairy cattle – The dairy industry is promoting the use of the National Dairy BJD Assurance Score and adoption of hygienic calf rearing practices through the 3-Step Calf Plan and/or the Johne’s Disease Calf Accreditation Program (JDCAP)

Useful resources:

JD in Cattle tools – A number of tools are available for cattle producers to help them prevent JD entering or manage it in their cattle. Animal Health Australia has collated them in one webpage

Everything you need to know about JD in Cattle – With recent changes in the way the disease is managed in Australian cattle, producers, vets or anyone working in the cattle production industry can find all the resources they need right here

Farm biosecurity plan – An on-farm biosecurity plan is a requirement for maintaining a Johne’s Beef Assurance Score (J-BAS) and will be a requirement for the Livestock Production Assurance (LPA) program in the future.

LPA program – All the information you need to know about the new changes under the LPA program[bg_faq-end]

  • The above information can all be found at on the AHA website at this link








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  1. Bryan Gaukroger, 24/10/2017

    Within QLD, if your property/herd has a score of J-Bas 7, can you still purchase stock from a reliable seller who is J-Bas 6? Are you able to quarantine the purchased stock for a set period, test for JD, then run with the rest of the herd?

  2. Peter McEntee, 30/06/2017

    It’s a joke Max, WA haven’t tested for BJD for at least 15 years, there is no way they can establish that they are BJD free. If there are WA producers who want J-BAs 8, let them pay for it and not lock the rest of WA into anything above 6.

  3. Max Dench, 27/06/2017

    If, as the AHA spokesperson states in the response above, JD is JD whether it be in sheep or cattle, then how is WA considering itself JD free in cattle and thereby automatically being given a J-BAS 8 score when they admit they have JD in sheep. Seems the J-BAS rules are different across the country.

  4. scott anderson, 26/06/2017

    If I had a vaxinated sheep die of ojd in the last what will be my j-bas score in the beef herd.

    Thanks for your question Scott, an Animal Health Australia spokesperson has responded with the following answer:

    “Unfortunately the questioner (Scott) left off the time period since the death, so I can’t be specific. Basically, there is no distinction now between JD in sheep and JD in cattle or goats or alpacas. In other words, although the J-BAS system is only for beef cattle, if Scott had JD in his sheep recently it must be treated as JD on his property, and the J-BAS would be applied accordingly. So, if the infection was more than five years ago and he has an on-farm plan, he could call his herd a J-BAS6 (provided all other conditions are met); if the infection was between two and five years ago, J-BAS4 (provided all other conditions are met); if within the last two years but has removed clinical cases and has an on-farm bio plan in place, J-BAS2; and if he has done nothing, J-BAS0. It’s irrelevant that the JD was in a sheep – JD is JD.”

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