A LARGE an invested cross section of beef producers from around the state region came to the AgForce Cattle Policy Forum held at Charters Towers on March 27, to get a better understanding of the current situation and future plans involving the Bovine Johne's Disease (BJD) eradication program, Better Management Practices (BMP), market access, live exports and legislative reform.
Charters Towers Mayor Frank Beveridge gave the introductory address regarding the key areas that the forum would cover.
He said grazing is the region’s future and “the event was organised to ensure that future’.
The first session for the day titled ‘BJD in QLD – Where to from here’ was fronted by former head vet for Biosecurity Queensland and current BJD Liaison Officer Dr Ron Glanville.
He started by saying that BJD is a complex disease to understand and control, as it’s a late developing disease that causes a bacterial infection of the gut. He said that while adults are resistant to the disease calves are at risk and the incubation period can take anywhere from 18 to 24 to start showing signs of the infection.
He said that in the United States where the disease is widespread it causes losses between $200-$250 million per year, and other countries such as Japan will not accept meat from BJD-carrying cattle due to the purported links with human Crohn’s Disease. It’s with these factors in mind that the plan to eradicate the disease from Queensland before it can become commonplace was decided upon.
Dr Glanville stated that Queensland has had 23 cases of BJD since 2000, but the current case is unique because the infection was detected in home-grown animals.
“Results showed that there were 172 movements from the Rocklea Stud, from that we have conducted testing on 159 properties, so we still have 13 properties still to be tested,” he said.
“At present we still have 60 properties under quarantine; of those four have the infection present, with another eight looking likely to be carrying BJD-infected cattle as well.”
When questioned about how realistic the eradication plan was, Dr Glanville responded by saying ‘eradication is technically feasible’.
“If we don’t try and follow through with the eradication plan Queensland will be covered with BJD.”
He provided a glimmer of hope to producers under quarantine by stating that a Biosecurity Bill is currently in the process of being passed that will put a system in place to allow effected producers to continue moving stock under a management program which will eliminate the requirement of quarantining.
Dr Glanville said the quarantined properties will be free from movement restrictions by the end of the year.
Droughtmaster Society President and North Beef Chairman Rob Atkinson raised his concerns with the panel saying that many producers in the area are currently no closer to knowing if they will be able to cover the costs of their operations.
“Quarantined properties can’t restock, and the stock we do have is sitting in the paddocks waiting to be moved,” Mr Atkinson said.
“The situation has been worsened because the feedlots don’t want the hassle of having to deal with BJD effected cattle,” he said.
He went on to say the stigma surrounding the disease is causing great personal pain financial hardship.
“We’re being treated as guilty until proven innocent.”
In conclusion Mr Atkinson said that that some form of compensation needs to be arranged as soon as possible for effected properties, and that Biosecurity needs to create a fact-friendly brochure to illuminate the details of BJD more effectively.
Another effected producer, Roland Everingham, from Oak Park, Einasleigh, added that in his opinion ‘the current plan isn’t flexible enough’, and that what should have been a small quickly solved problem has been blown out of proportion.
In response Dr Glanville said work is ongoing regarding the Biosecurity fund that is being set up to compensate producers. Currently a $2 million grant has been provided by the Queensland Government, along with a loan of $3 million to be matched dollar-for-dollar by cattle producers through an industry levy.
Panel member and Cattle Council of Australia Vice President Peter Hall said, that the current thinking is that the levy fee will be paid off by charging a fee of 50-60c per head for future transaction by those that will be supplemented with the loan funds.
For the full report grab a copy of the NQ Register April 4 Edition.