Vet John Webb Ware addresses producers in Rockhampton yesterday at a meeting about Bovine Johne’s Disease.
Vet John Webb Ware addresses producers in Rockhampton yesterday at a meeting about Bovine Johne’s Disease. Kathleen Calderwood

Stigma attached to Bovine Johne's Disease worse than disease

THE stigma attached to Bovine Johne's Disease is worse than the disease itself. That was the resonating theme at an all day workshop held by the Australian Beef Association yesterday.

About 50 producers attended the meeting at the Rockhampton Leagues Club to listen to talks by the Kirks from Rockley Brahmans, Bajool, independent vets, the Cattle Council of Australia, vaccine researchers and AgForce.

Emerald grazier and beef association past president Linda Hewitt said the outbreak had caused divisions among the industry.

"What's happened is those who've been put in quarantine have been stigmatised by many others, when most producers do not realise that BJD is a syndrome that exists in the soil worldwide," she said.

Consequently she believes that management should be left to producers, considering the disease poses no threat to human health.

However cattle council BJD representative Nick Keatinge, from Jugiong in New South Wales, urged Queenslanders to try to keep their protected status. He said of the 18,000 cattle properties in Queensland, 1000 could be affected by BJD while still maintaining the state's protected status.

"In the southern states it's a totally different ball game," he said.

"We've got so many affected dairy farms it puts a risk factor in trading, so you take out the biggest risk factor.

"In Queensland you've got no risks - 17,970 (properties) are going to be most probably clean of the disease, so you're going to downgrade all those overnight. That's why the assistance package is very important for the affected ones.

"But why downgrade all those clean properties just because of 30 properties?

"It would take plenty of time to be full blown in Queensland."

Ashley Kirk, of Rockley Brahmans - the original affected property at Bajool - said the workshop had provided an opportunity to hear from other producers dealing with BJD, but he was still unsure of the way forward.

"It's very hard to make a decision on," he said. "I understand both sides of the story. As an industry we need to work together to come up with a plan.

"If we must stay protected, and that's the outcome that industry wants, then obviously full compensation would have to be done there."

Bovine Johne's facts

  • The first case of this outbreak was confirmed at Rockley Brahman Stud, Bajool in November.
  • There are still 73 properties under quarantine.
  • BJD is a serious wasting disease of cattle which can lead to death.
  • BJD is endemic to dairy cattle properties in the southern states, and prevalent in wet, muddy environments.
  • BJD has a long incubation time - often symptoms do not arise in cattle until they are five or six years old, although they are generally infected as young calves.
  • Vaccines do exist but are not available in Queensland.

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