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Transitional arrangements for Johnes Disease

Dr Jillian Kelly, District Veterinarian, Central West Local Land Services

The transitional arrangements for Johne's disease in cattle are set to end on 30 June 2017, so beef producers have just three weeks to instigate a plan to ensure their market access into the future.

Are you confused and have no idea what I’m talking about – don’t worry you’re not alone!  Let me explain…

The national Johne's disease arrangements in cattle officially changed on 1 July 2016 and the disease became deregulated.  This means that producers who are diagnosed with Johne's disease are no longer quarantined, there are no movement restrictions from infected farms, there are no longer zones, and the strain differential has been removed (so we no longer talk about OJD or BJD, but just Johne's disease in sheep or cattle).

The whole point of this was to move to a more market-driven approach where producers undertake practices to prevent or control Johne's disease based on market requirements, rather than heavy regulation.

So before July 2016, beef producers in the central west area were considered to be part of the Beef Protected Area.  This no longer exists, but the transitional arrangements until 30 June this year were that Beef Protected Areas transitioned across to a level 7 on the Johne's Beef Assurance Score (or J-BAS, where 0 is the lowest score and 8 is the highest score).

Producers have until 30 June 2017 to take measures to keep their J-BAS score after this date.  To maintain a Level 7, your cattle herd needs to have a check test for Johne's disease and you need to instigate a biosecurity plan that is overseen by a veterinary advisor.  If this all sounds too much, you can maintain a Level 6 by implementing your own farm biosecurity plan.  If you do nothing and the deadline passes, you will lapse to Level 0.

I am afraid that because this is all very complicated and there is no imminent market pressure to drive keeping a high J-BAS score that most producers will do nothing and their score will lapse to 0.  If this happens, and you decide down the track that you do want to take advantage of market opportunities (such interstate sales, some niche beef markets, export markets such as the growing Chinese demand), it will take you five years to regain a score of six or seven.

So act now! Talk to the staff at your local private vet clinic, or any one of your friendly district vets at Local Land Services and get your biosecurity plan in place.  A small amount of effort now will ensure you are in the best trading position possible in time to come.

Another tip is to always ask for a Cattle Health Declaration when buying in replacement stock now that Johne's disease is deregulated and infected farms are no longer quarantined.

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