PERHAPS it hasn’t been sold terribly well, and the way it was rolled out has confused, but the new approach to managing Johne’s disease in cattle is arguably exactly what producers want, our national beef writer Shan Goodwin reported in August.
It made individual properties the point of control and does away with costly quarantining and zoning.
That old-style sort of regulated control inflicted plenty of pain on plenty of cattle operations.
In fact, Cattle Council of Australia’s animal health and biosecurity expert Justin Toohey went as far as describing that regulated approach as “overkill”.
Industry studies have determined Johne’s sits way down at number 17 in the list of most important diseases in cattle production, he points out.
Mr Toohey gave an informative overview of the new system at August’s Yulgilbar Beef Expo and Forum, held on the Myer family’s Santa Gertrudis cattle property in Northern NSW, and was attended by 500 producers.
Not one of them had a question for Mr Toohey after his presentation.
Several told Fairfax Media they believed it should be up to individual producers to keep Johne’s out of their herds and that there was no doubt the new framework was required in order to maintain our valuable overseas beef markets.
Calls and petitions for it to be abolished should be ignored, they said.
But talks such as Mr Toohey’s probably should have happened earlier, they felt.
Mr Toohey said the new framework, with its Johnes beef assurance score, or JBAS, was actually the result of 12 months of meetings involving veterinarians, government departments, producers, industry representatives, scientists and regulators.
He said those talks followed the well-known Johne’s incident involving a Queensland Brahman stud in 2012 that led to 177 properties across the country being quarantined “at great pain to all”.
A lot of pressure was then put on industry and government to review what was being done around Johne’s in cattle, he said.
While the regulated approach may have been overkill, Mr Toohey said the issue was firstly that producers did need to be able to keep Johne’s out of their herds if they didn’t have it.
Secondly, it does have an impact on live trade.
“It’s mentioned in nearly every live trade protocol we have,” he said.
Two major decisions came from the discussions.
The first was to deregulate and have industry run its own programs and the second was to see Johne’s as an overall disease.
“Prior to this, we were talking strains and saying they couldn’t cross over,” Mr Toohey said.
“In fact, our studies show 30 per cent of infections in cattle in Victoria were sheep strains – there is clear scientific evidence the sheep strain can affect cattle.”
Voluntary tools to help producers manage the disease were developed, keeping in mind the majority of beef herds in Australia don’t have it.
And JBAS was created.
It’s identical in looks to the dairy score, which has been running successfully for years now, Mr Toohey said.