Vaccination could be best option

Vaccination could be best option

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AS the BJD government policy disaster continues, an interesting study on the disease from 1998 was brought to our attention through one of the many emails we have received on the issue.

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AS the BJD government policy disaster continues, an interesting study on the disease from 1998 was brought to our attention through one of the many emails we have received on the issue.

The report was centred on Johne’s Disease in New Zealand, and despite the time lapse, the key results of the study still have relevance today.

MANAGEMENT of Johne’s disease requires vaccinating replacement heifers where a clinical case of the disease is discovered, according to an economic analyst in 1998.

Chief Economist DSE Victoria, Gary Stoneham, along with Elizabeth Brett and Joe Johnston penned a report in 1998 on economic evaluations of control options for Johne’s disease in the New Zealand Livestock Industries Agriculture.

The report stated the main issues stemming from Johne’s disease are a reduction in the profitability of a beef herd by disrupting calf production, culling practice and the rearing of replacement animals.

It estimated the cost associated with the loss of one beef breeding cow from Johne’s disease was $720 “when there are no extra replacements carried over to allow for any Johne’s disease losses.”

The report compared the effects of two different disease control treatments: a program of testing and culling of all breeding cows found to be infected; and, a program of routine vaccination of replacement breeding cows.

In the vaccination program, it was advised only replacement breeding stock be vaccinated at a cost of $13 per dose while progeny sold for slaughter or fattening should not be vaccinated.

It concluded that “the benefits of vaccination far outweigh the benefits of a test and cull program.”

“For herds with only one clinical case per year, it is economic to conduct an ongoing program of vaccinating replacements.

“A five-year test and cull program is economic for herds with three clinical cases per year.

The report recommended vaccinating only replacement females for future breeding, and not progeny intended for slaughter as the latter would not exhibit Johne’s disease traits prior to the age of slaughter.

Vaccinated breeders would need to be permanently marked for future identification when exporting overseas due to similarities between the bacterium of BJD and tuberculosis, and for trimming lesions from the carcass post-slaughter.

The report noted, if the cost of the vaccination was halved, it would be economic for nearly all beef herds to implement a five-year vaccination program for Johne’s disease.

“Producers will invest in disease control only when the benefits exceed or are equal to the costs of managing the disease,” the report stated.

“Results from the previous analysis show that in many situations, producers would choose not to invest in a disease control program because the costs outweigh the benefits.”

A cost-benefit analysis was performed on the National Johne’s Disease Market Assurance Program (NJDMAP) introduced in Australia in 1996.

The stated aim of the NJDMAP was not to eradicate the disease, but to reduce its spread with herds in the program repeatedly tested and classified according to the number of clean tests achieved.

“The benefits of NJDMAP stem from a reduction in the spread of Johne’s disease from one herd to another, and subsequent productivity losses.

“The costs of the program are the costs of herd testing and running the program. The study found that in its current form, the costs of the program outweighed the overall benefits to commercial producers.

“In commercial herds, the costs incurred in whole herd testing to reach TN3 status (the lowest class of tested negative) are unlikely to be recouped in extra productivity across the industry.”

The report stated the only situation where expected benefits would be expected to exceed the costs was in the case of stud farms purchasing animals.

“Individual breeding flocks or herds infected with Johne’s disease suffer higher economic losses per clinical case than commercial flocks/herds because the animals have a greater market value and the farms’ ability to trade livestock is restricted.

“For studs, the costs of losing market premiums are so high that it is worthwhile investing considerable effort to secure disease-free animals.”

In terms of the impact on meat exports, the study commented that “a blanket ban on products from countries with Johne’s disease would seem highly unlikely, as Johne’s disease is endemic in many countries and regions including the US and the EU. The World Trade Organisation agreement on non-tariff barriers restricts the use of disease as a trade barrier if it is also present in the importing country.”

The report stated that for countries where Johne’s disease is not endemic, meat from vaccinated animals can be exported, but carcasses must be trimmed first to ensure that reactions caused by the vaccine are not mistaken for tuberculosis.

State’s BJD control is Queensland issue

By Howard Smith, AgForce Cattle President

SINCE a large scale Bovine Johne’s disease (BJD) investigation commenced in November 2012 (Q2012), debate has raged as to how manage to BJD in Queensland and best assist BJD quarantined producers.

Over the last 14 months, AgForce has repeatedly explained why Queensland must remain a BJD Protected Zone and that every step should be taken to mitigate the spread of this cattle disease.

Nevertheless, given the re-emergence of non-factual and damaging debate in recent weeks, it is important to explain to our members and industry alike why AgForce supports maintaining this policy.

Historically, BJD has been a notifiable disease since 1988 under Queensland’s Stock Act. This means it is law to report suspect or confirmed cases of BJD. It is also pertinent to note, since the inception of AgForce in 1999 there has not been a single member resolution opposing the BJD management framework in Queensland, including since November 2012.

Of the 14, 000 beef producing properties farms in Queensland, there are currently 53 quarantined properties. Of these, there are still 16 properties (four from Q2012; and 12 from Q2013) that have not commenced testing. Given the sheer size of non-quarantined properties, AgForce is morally obligated to maintain Queensland as a Protected Zone.

BJD is a serious disease and untreatable once detected. Cattle infected (as opposed to suspected) with BJD cannot enter the food chain and producers are duty bound to ensure the health of our livestock and to sell livestock that are ‘fit for purpose’.

This obligation extends beyond our shores to our key international markets. The Australian beef sector, of which Queensland is a key contributor, exports beef cattle, live and boxed, to 127 markets across the globe, of which around 70 have BJD requirements. This argument is criticised as overplayed, but jeopardising any established or emerging markets would be as foolish as it is damaging. Perception is reality when it comes to markets and market access.

As a state, we have no control over technical trade barriers if Queensland were to give up Protected Zone status. One example is the requirement Western Australia has imposed on Queensland bulls for entry to WA; a clean BJD herd sample test. This WA import policy is contrary to the spirit of the national BJD framework which allows Queensland as a Protected Zone to trade freely and as such Queensland actively opposes the WA import policy.

And then there is the BJD Financial Assistance Scheme. AgForce understands BJD affected producers are at once frustrated and concerned by the limitations of the Scheme. The Scheme is only available to those producers who have committed to controlling BJD on their properties.

Surely, as the breadth and extent of Q2012 has been quantified – the Scheme can now be extended and expanded to use the $2 million seed funding from the Government. Whilst initially the quantum of payments from the Scheme was unknown;, this can now be adjusted accordingly in line with the demand from affected producers in light of clarity from the testing process.

However, despite intensive lobbying efforts to government, progress is needed and AgForce is of the view that Scheme simply does not go far enough and that:

• Producers suffering hardship should be able to claim from the Scheme assessed on a case by case basis.

• The Scheme should not be limited by a six month in quarantine eligibility requirement.

Progress on these reforms is frustrating, and AgForce welcomes the efforts of all Queensland producers to demonstrate the need for review to Government; and in turn seeks leadership from Government to positively resolve this matter.

Concern about the management framework is certainly not reflected by the vast majority of our membership or broader industry. However, there are also industry players, with no stake in the Queensland beef industry, currently agitating to change the current framework. What benefit they are seeking for BJD- free Queensland producers, and the manner in which they are seeking it, is not apparent or helpful.

Management of BJD in Queensland is a Queensland issue which should collaboratively be decided upon by both affected and non-affected producers with the best interests of the state’s beef and cattle industry as the priority.

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