QUARANTINING of commercial sheep flocks or farms detected with Ovine Johne’s Disease infection had no role to play in the disease’s ongoing management in Australia, WoolProducers Australia vice-president Ed Storey said last week.
After a NOJDMP review, WoolProducers Australia and Sheep Producers Australia last week decided OJD management will continue as part of the Sheep Health Project at Animal Health Australia.
Producers will still be able to use all the on-farm practices and tools currently recommended as part of a best practice approach to OJD control, but the previous five-year National OJDMP will not be extended.
However, the last state to attempt OJD regulation — South Australia — is yet to disclose details of its new SA Ovine Johne’s Disease Management Program and the flocks and/or properties of several SA producers are still under quarantine under the state’s current OJD regulations.
In 2016, a report by then University of Adelaide Professor Kym Abbott that recommended OJD management be de-regulated in the state said that 50 SA flocks with confirmed OJD had been under quarantine orders for an average of 4.6 years.
The Abbott report was prepared confidentially for Primary Industries and Regions SA and the government-appointed South Australian Sheep Advisory Group, but it was never generally released to SA’s sheep producers.
Quarantine restrictions are a disincentive to OJD management
Mr Storey said flock and property quarantines were a tremendous disincentive to early management of any disease and there was no role for quarantining infected commercial flocks or properties as long as producers used vaccination and made honest declarations via the Sheep Health Statement.
“The disease can be managed through vaccination, which has been shown to be incredibly successful.
By restricting trade the SA authorities were “in effect, kidding themselves,” he said.
“There is quite a bit of evidence that the heavy handed regulatory approach was actually causing people to not send their sheep to get tested; to skew their decision-making behaviour to avoid being tested and avoiding the regulatory implications of that.
“That’s no way to manage what is, in the higher rainfall areas, largely an endemic disease,” Mr Storey said.
SA producers should be consulted on OJD plan
Mr Storey said the lack of a general release of the Abbott OJD report by PIRSA and SASAG was disappointing and he believed SA producers should also be consulted on the state’s proposed new OJD program before it is implemented. The national OJD plan decision was made after a six-week industry stakeholder consultation period.
“If the (SA) minister wants to implement a program without consulting with producers in South Australia that always has the risk of leading to poor outcomes.”
Mr Storey said the testing and maintaining of South Australia as a whole Regional Biosecurity Plan was not an evidenced-based decision.
“As Kym Abbott’s report highlighted they were just doing a small amount of testing and the probability was that they weren’t picking it all up.”
Dr Abbott said the limited penetration and insensitivity of abattoir surveillance lead to a conclusion that the prevalence of OJD in SA’s south-east region is significantly under-estimated, but if regulatory controls were removed, it is expected OJD infection will spread through the state’s medium and high rainfall zones at a higher rate and progress towards the levels of flock infection seen in Victoria, New South Wales and New Zealand.
Mr Storey said there was always an opportunity cost associated with regulation and these funds are better spent through education and extension.
“It would better if you got to a situation where people were requesting abattoir surveillance of their sheep…. Rather than have a punitive regulatory arrangement in place where people are avoiding testing.”
“WoolProducers Australia believes that producers should be able to manage the disease in the most appropriate way to their individual enterprise, given that OJD can be managed through a number of “tools, including vaccination,” he said.
“The National OJD Management Plan has never had the power to quarantine stock or regulate for this disease, this has always been within the power of each individual state to manage the disease as they see fit.”
Despite the NOJDMP review decision, an Animal Health Australia spokesman reiterated last week that “there is no question of any states being required ‘fall into line.’
“The National OJD Management Plan ending and being incorporated into the Sheep Health Project has no effect on how states regulate endemic diseases.”
SA OJD plan announcement “imminent”
Livestock SA president Joe Keynes said there are “changes afoot” and he is expecting an “imminent” announcement on the new SA OJD management plan.
He said the recommendations in the proposed new SA program have come from the SA Sheep Advisory Group, not Livestock SA. But he said Livestock SA would like to work with SA’s Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development Tim Whetstone to implement them “whatever they look like”.
“Livestock SA welcomes the opportunity to work with the minister and Biosecurity SA to ensure these changes are rolled out and everyone understands their implications.
“We welcome whatever is coming out.”
Mr Keynes is expecting that whatever is announced in South Australia will be in line with the national OJD plan decision.
He would not comment on the need for OJD regulation in South Australia as Livestock SA president.
“As a sheep producer, I think if we could line up with the national program that would be good.”
As a sheep producer, Mr Keynes said if South Australia followed the national industry down the national path of he thought that would include the release of SA properties and flocks from OJD quarantine.
“We have been in consultation with the government about the changes, but nothing that I can talk to you about.
“I am hoping we get briefed before the announcement.”
Mr Keynes said Livestock SA welcomed the national OJD plan decision.
“It’s not that there won’t be a focus on OJD; OJD will be a part of the focus of the endemic disease program and we expect that to be happening in South Australia as well.”
Silence on new SA OJD plan’s implications
Neither Mr Whetstone’s office nor South Australia’s chief veterinary officer Dr Roger Paskin have answered Sheep Central’s questions on whether SA flock owners would now be released from quarantine restrictions or whether all SA producers would be consulted on the proposed new SA Ovine Johne’s Disease Management Program before it is implemented.
Questions put to Mr Whetstone’s office last week have not been answered. In a statement attributed to Dr Paskin, PIRSA Biosecurity SA said it welcomed the announcement on the new national management arrangements for Johne’s disease in sheep.
“In preparation for this national arrangement, PIRSA Biosecurity SA in liaison with industry has already commenced the development of a new South Australian Ovine Johne’s Disease Management Program, which also focusses on producers effectively managing the endemic disease as part of their overall approach to animal health and biosecurity,” the statement said.
SASAG chairman Ian Rowett would not comment on whether producers would be consulted before the new OIJD plan is implemented or if it included the dropping of quarantining as a control measure.
Well done Ed Storey. encouraging to hear some leadership in an industry that today is almost devoid of leaders — leaders who have a position on anything.
Somebody turned the lights on?