‘Beef up’ tick fever rules

‘Beef up’ tick fever protocols


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Bill Cumberland (front) along with John Wallis, Bob Baker, Riley Baker, Col Baker and Christian Gibson are calling for more resources to be invested in tick fever control.

Bill Cumberland (front) along with John Wallis, Bob Baker, Riley Baker, Col Baker and Christian Gibson are calling for more resources to be invested in tick fever control.

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NSW farmers are calling for more resources to be invested in tick fever control.

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A line of wire holding cattle eartags hangs on Bill Cumberland’s door as a reminder of what he’s lost.

The ear tags were cut off the 60 animals that died from cattle ticks containing the organism that causes tick fever.

“Those cattle were born and bred on this property and that's 23 years of genetics gone,” Mr Cumberland said.

The Land reported on last week's back page that a tick fever outbreak in the Kendall region last April caused 63 head of cattle to die and 94 herds (6745 cattle) from Bulahdelah to Bellingen and west to Tamworth placed under official movement restrictions.

In a united front, Mr Cumberland, along with farmers in his region Col Baker, Bob Baker, Riley Baker, Christian Gibson and John Wallis are calling for more resources to be invested in tick fever control.

They want Federal, NSW and Queensland Governments to stop playing the blame game and work together to combat the issue that not only has financial but emotional costs.

"Like equine influenza, there has been a failure of government protocols,” Mr Cumberland said.

“Where is the beef in protocols? Show me the beef.

"They talk about biosecurity but this is bio-insecurity.

"This can happen to anyone and should not be made an election issue because it’s people’s lives.”

On April 15, 2018 the first cow went down on Mr Cumberland’s property with a post-mortem showing blood in the urine, which indicated the tick fever organism.

But by the time the antidote was flown down from Queensland, it was too late, and Mr Cumberland lost half of his herd.

Mr Cumberland and Mr Gibson lost cattle while the other producers' dairy herds underwent a strict treatment process. 

The process included treating cattle with Cydectin every three weeks for 12 treatments with an additional two examinations six weeks apart.

The farmers all adjoin the Black Creek and Camden Haven River, and believe the cattle ticks were spread during the March flood.

A line of wire holding cattle eartags that were cut off Bill Cumberland's cattle who died from tick fever. Photos by Samantha Townsend.

A line of wire holding cattle eartags that were cut off Bill Cumberland's cattle who died from tick fever. Photos by Samantha Townsend.

Mr Cumberland has been told he would not be compensated for his loss despite the NSW Department of Agriculture Agfacts previously stating: “compensation is paying for confirmed cases of tick fever, or for stock slaughtered on suspicion".

"It's not just the financial cost, but it's emotional cost," he said.

"We are just waiting for this to happen again."

Related reading: Tick fever outbreak only takes one animal

Since the outbreak was detected an infringement notice has been issues to a Victoria livestock transporter for failing to provide evidence of completing mandatory tick requirements prior to bringing a bull from a tick zone to a Mid North coast property.

Federal response

​A Department of Agriculture and Water Resources spokesperson said state and territory governments were responsible for biosecurity conditions and the movement of animals between jurisdictions.

The spokesperson said both NSW and Queensland regulate the movement of cattle to manage the risk of cattle ticks, which were present in parts of Queensland, but not in NSW.

"Questions around funding, resourcing, potential fines and compensation for not complying with cattle tick regulations should be directed to the relevant state governments," the spokesperson said.

NSW Government

A NSW Department of Primary Industries spokesperson said each state had a responsibility for managing cattle tick, which allowed each jurisdiction to take a risk-based management approach as best suits the local environmental conditions and the prevalence of cattle tick.

Cattle tick is listed as a notifiable disease under the NSW Biosecurity Regulation 2017, which includes substantial penalties for producers who fail to meet the mandatory cattle tick entry requirements, or who fail to comply with biosecurity undertakings issued in relation to cattle tick. 

Penalty notices of $1,000 can be issued for people not complying with mandatory requirements under the regulation. Fines for not complying with a biosecurity undertaking for individuals are up to $220,000, and $55,000 for each day the offence continues.

The NSW Government spends about $4 million a year to keep the state free of tick fever. It provides assistance to producers undertaking cattle tick eradication programs by subsidising 75 per cent of the chemical costs as well as providing staff to supervise the program. A tick fever antidote is available for use in NSW, and can be sourced as needed through local veterinarians. A vaccine for tick fever is available for use in NSW but stocks of this vaccine are commonly held at the Tick Fever Centre, just north of the NSW border at Wacol in Queensland.

QLD Government

A Biosecurity Queensland spokesperson said under the Biosecurity Act 2014, it placed a general biosecurity obligation on everyone to manage their biosecurity risks including cattle tick.

Producers receiving livestock must ensure the correct protocols have been followed and have systems in place to identify and deal with biosecurity risks.

Day to day tick line operations are managed by a network of more than 80 accredited certifiers across Queensland. NSW DPI staff manage the border crossing sites. Tick line breaches in Queensland attract a maximum fine of $65,275.

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