Johne's twist as producers given reprieve on zero rating

Johne's twist as producers given reprieve on zero rating if they do not meet June 30 deadline


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Producers have been given a reprieve of health status.

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► RELATED: Get your boots on: Crazy rush to meet Johne’s biosecurity deadline

The bovine Johne’s disease shake-up descended into some confusion as Animal Health Australia announced producers would not fall to a zero score if they didn’t have a biosecurity plan in place by June 30, while AgForce in Queensland announced it had won a three month extension to complete plans.

The new rating level is significant - it means all producers will remain at a J-BAS 6 score, not zero.  But animal health Australia denied there was an extension for completing plans beyond June 30. The only relevant date now for a deadline though is October 1 when the Livestock Production Assurance accreditation is due, which will require a biosecurity plan.

It came after  an urgent meeting of the board of the Cattle Council of Australia, which is pushing the Johne’s reforms to make biosecurity an on-farm matter.

The Land reported on the original scheme on Wednesday, but the new changes were not announced until after the newspaper went to print, almost 5pm on Wednesday.

The Cattle Council of Australia Board said it had acted because of “a high degree of concern” that store sales could be affected in July as well as many producers not having a plan in place, under the previous conditions.

The Council announced: “The amendment is that herds with a transition score of J-BAS 7 or 8 will revert to a J-BAS 6 rather than J-BAS 0, if no on-farm biosecurity plan is in place by 1 July 2017. The focus remains the same – cattle producers across Australia are urged to implement an on-farm biosecurity plan, and are encouraged to treat JD as one of the many diseases they must manage within their business.”

Meanwhile Animal Health Australia urged producers to get a biosecurity plan done by June 30, when the new system starts..

“CCA have taken on-board feedback and altered the J-BAS score to alleviate producer concerns regarding loss of domestic market sales. This doesn’t change the focus of the new direction – cattle producers are still encouraged to treat JD as one of the many diseases they must manage within their business,” says Dr Rob Barwell, Acting Executive Manager Biosecurity and Product Integrity Services at AHA.

“We’d like to acknowledge all livestock stakeholders, including agents, for their excellent work in spreading the on-farm biosecurity message to Australian cattle producers – a message we’re keen for all invested parties to continue sharing.

“It’s important to remember that key to this new framework is the implementation of robust biosecurity practices; practices which will safeguard the profitability of the cattle producer,” says Dr Barwell.

He said to assist producers with developing their biosecurity plans, AHA has updated its Farm Biosecurity Plan page to include a range of biosecurity planning resources. The same on-farm planning template can be used for the Livestock Production Assurance program and J-BAS, with producers who have a JD focus required to complete the optional JD questions.

AgForce Cattle President Bim Struss said many producers were only now becoming aware of new biosecurity obligations and what they needed to do to continue to trade with the Northern Territory and Western Australia.

“Changes to biosecurity laws have shifted a lot of the costs and responsibilities for managing pests and diseases on to producers,” he said.

“The new national approach to Johne’s disease in cattle has seen most states remove regulations, including here in Queensland, with Animal Health Australia developing a Johne’s Beef Assurance Score (J-BAS) for cattle producers to manage on-farm risks themselves.

“However, the NT and WA have decided to legislate minimum entry requirements that include a biosecurity plan, and in the case of WA, herd testing. 

“In addition, a biosecurity plan will also soon be required for producers to be accredited under the Livestock Production Assurance program overseen by Meat and Livestock Australia.

“There has been a lot of confusion and frustration about the various new requirements. Many producers have been concerned they will not have a biosecurity plan in place by 30 June, meaning their J-BAS could drop to zero and take years to build back up.

“AgForce approached Animal Health Australia and Cattle Council of Australia urging flexibility and more support for producers, with these organisations now agreeing to a three-month extension before the new Johne’s disease management framework takes full effect. 

“While AgForce would have preferred a twelve-month deferral of biosecurity planning requirements, an extra three months will at least give producers some much needed breathing space and their J-BAS will stay at level six rather than drop back to zero from 1 July.

“The reality is most cattle producers are already doing the right thing and can confidently tick yes to most if not all of the biosecurity plan boxes. Developing a biosecurity plan will just document the good work producers are already doing, but producers need more time to prepare.”

Mr Struss said AgForce and Livestock Biosecurity Network will be holding a series of biosecurity planning workshops throughout June to provide Queensland producers with a choice of templates and information on how to design a biosecurity plan that suits their individual business needs.

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