SOUTH Australia will deregulate its Ovine Johne’s Disease restrictions on sheep entering the state from July 1 this year, but authorities and stock agents are still urging caution.
The change has been welcomed by selling agents in Victoria and South Australia; however, Victorian and New South Wales producers expecting a boom in SA demand for replacement ewes could be disappointed.
While other states have already de-regulated the disease’s management, SA authorities had until recently treated the entire state as a regional biosecurity area and tried to monitor and regulate the disease’s introduction and spread.
This was attempted through stopping the entry of OJD-infected sheep, the quarantining of infected SA flocks and properties, abattoir surveillance, Gudair vaccine subsidies, on-farm monitoring by veterinarians and producers, and producer education.
In the transition to OJD deregulation, last year the South Australian sheep industry changed to a voluntary program to allow producers to manage the disease in line with their individual business priorities. The SA Government’s decision to deregulate its OJD rules also followed a national deregulation decision, and research questioning the success of the SA program and its cost.
Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development Tim Whetstone this week said the State Government would lift long-standing restrictions which restricted South Australian farmers buying sheep from Victoria and New South Wales and bringing them into the state, to grow the SA flock as fast as possible after the drought breaks.
“We will be tearing down the last Ovine Johne’s disease movement barrier, and from 1 July farmers will find it easier to source sheep from interstate to boost the size of their flocks,” said Minister Whetstone.
However, Mr Whetstone said the dry conditions experienced in SA and other eastern states meant there would be limited availability of sheep for restocking purposes once conditions improve, so now is the time for farmers to lay plans to boost the size of their flocks.
“Without this reform, our local sheep and wool industry would be at a significant disadvantage to Eastern states’ farmers who would be free to buy the cream of our flocks while South Australian farmers would have been shackled in trying to source from interstate.
“Removing interstate movement restrictions will allow harmonisation with the national OJD program and will make sheep trade between states easier.”
Naracoorte-based PPH&S agent Richard Harvey welcomed the changes, but expected most SA demand for replacement sheep would be for Merinos into the state’s pastoral and Mallee regions, most likely sourced from Western Australia.
The dropping of restrictions might attract more Victorian sheep to the annual Naracoorte first cross ewe sales, but Mr Harvey said there previously been limited demand from SA for sheep out of regional biosecurity areas in northern Victoria. And most of the crossbred sheep bred and sold around Naracoorte were sold to producers within a 150 kilometre radius.
“My personal view is WA will be probably a bigger supplier of sheep to use than New South Wales or Victoria – purely on price and because there is a bigger supply of Merino sheep over there than coming out of NSW or Victoria.
“They have been hit with drought as well, but they probably have a broader base of (Merino) sheep in comparison to what Victoria and NSW have, and if we do get widespread rain, sheep supplies are going to be tight everywhere anyway – it’s going to come back to price and who can afford to buy and who is not.”
He said crossbred sheep were run in generally higher rainfall areas and the Merino flock owners of SA had been hardest hit by the drought and the limited replacement opportunities. The retention of breeding stock across all areas will also be greater.
“That’s where I think our biggest hole is going to be – those outer areas when they get a good season and need to rebuild their flocks will put the pressure on.”
Mr Harvey said Naracoorte agents at this stage still required that sheep for the town’s annual off-shears first cross ewe sales needed to be approved OJD vaccinates and off a “clean” property, but he expected this to be reviewed before the November sales.
Mr Harvey also echoed Mr Whetstone’s advice that it was particularly important producers continue to look for sheep that have been vaccinated against OJD, or vaccinate any stock they purchase. Mr Whetstone said good farm biosecurity should always play a central role in any purchasing decisions and Mr Harvey said producers intending to sell breeding stock should still be vaccinating lambs for OJD between 4-16 weeks of age.
“That’s a good way to go and that way they can be traded anywhere.”
Rodwells Edenhope manager at Edenhope David Hanel welcomed the changes and hoped they would improve competition from SA producers at the town’s annual first cross ewe sales, although all the 1.5 year-old ewes in last year’s sale were approved vaccinates and eligible for entry into South Australia.
“We will do more promoting of our approved vaccinate sheep this year.”
Mr Hanel said the buying strength at Edenhope had always came from Victoria’s south-west, Mallee and Wimmera regions, and SA agents had supported the Naracoorte sale. He said many Victorian flocks had adopted OJD vaccination earlier than those in SA and thus had a longer proven known OJD health history.
“I always found it amusing that our vaccinated sheep couldn’t even go over the border, yet you could buy unvaccinated sheep in South Australia.”
The changes would also open up opportunity for Victorian producers to sell their breeding stock in the SA sales, he said.
“The barriers are pretty well broken down now.”
Livestock SA president Joe Keynes said Livestock SA was pleased to see the stronger alignment in South Australia to the national management arrangements for the disease.
“We are aware that approved vaccinates and stock from areas with a low OJD risk prevalence will not only be in limited supply when seasonal conditions improve but will also increase in price,” said Mr Keynes.
“Freeing stock movements up will assist producers greatly as they start to recover from the recent dry conditions.
“As the National Sheep Health Declaration remains mandatory for all sheep movements into or within South Australia, producers will need to need to consider how to adapt their on-farm biosecurity and disease management strategies in line with these new arrangements.
“The One Biosecurity program, I believe, provides a valuable tool to assist producers with managing Johne’s disease into the future, so if you haven’t signed up to it already this could be the perfect opportunity to make it a part of your on-farm biosecurity set up.”
South Australia’s Department of Primary Industries and Regions is advising that completed National Vendor Declarations (NVDs) and National Sheep Health Declarations (NSHDs) will still remain mandatory in SA.
While interstate sheep movement restrictions associated with Johne’s Disease have been lifted, to reduce the disease impact it is recommended that all animals entering SA should be vaccinated for Johne’s Disease, either before entry or upon entry to SA, PIRSA said.
Johne’s disease in sheep is a notifiable disease and must be reported to PIRSA, and all producers, livestock agents, consultants and veterinarians must report suspicion of disease.
PIRSA said declarations of Johne’s Disease risk is required on health declarations and false declarations may lead to regulatory action.
The department is also strongly recommending that all sheep entering SA should be vaccinated against Johne’s Disease, either before entry or upon entry to SA. PIRSA said there is evidence that vaccinating sheep older than 12 weeks of age will provide some protection from OJD. As a precaution, farmers should vaccinate any stock they purchase unless they are from an area with a low OJD risk prevalence or have been demonstrated to have a low disease status, the department said.
SA sheep producers can click here for details on how to request sheep be inspected for Ovine Johne’s Disease at Thomas Foods International Lobethal by contacting PIRSA to request inspection. They can also access subsidised disease investigations for flock problems where presentation is consistent with Johne’s Disease (eg. wasting, increased mortality) via private veterinarians or PIRSA staff. For more details on the SA OJD changes click here.