SOUTH Australia has suffered a major incursion of Ovine Johne’s Disease via Western Australian sheep sold into its mid-north region.
Primary Industries and Regions South Australia has admitted the sheep wasting disease has been detected on five SA properties “in connection to a consignment from Western Australia”.
“OJD had not previously been detected on these properties.
“The sheep from WA had not been vaccinated for OJD,” a PIRSA spokesperson said.
However, Sheep Central has been told the state has had reports of at least nine properties affected by OJD stemming from WA sheep shipments in the past financial year.
The detections come just months after the state with the toughest restrictions on OJD in Australia finally deregulated the disease’s management in mid-2019 after years of enforcing strict statewide flock and property quarantine regulations.
Doubts about WA consignment paperwork
SA veterinarian Colin Trengrove who did some of the post mortems earlier this year to confirm OJD in the WA sheep said one producer lost several ewes during lambing from a mob of 5-7 year-old ewes purchased last year from an agent, who brought in the sheep from a dispersal last year in south-west WA. Some of the sheep were mated and then re-sold to other SA producers.
“I understand there were several thousand sheep involved in that dispersal and they went into New South Wales as well as SA, that’s what the agent told me.”
Dr Trengrove said he was told a truck driver allegedly signed the National Vendor Declaration for some of the Western Australian sheep.
“It’s only ‘allegedly’ that the truck driver signed it, but that’s what the agent told me.
“I thought this is a joke – here we are South Australia, up until a year or so ago, when the chief veterinary officer changed the policy, we were having probably a COVID-19 type attitude towards Johne’s and since then it has been deregulated and we are letting sheep flood in from WA, basically unchecked,” he said.
“It’s just an absurd situation.
“I was really quite devastated to see what was going on.”
Dr Trengrove said the NVD should be signed by the supplier – the vendor – and South Australia was the only state with a mandatory sheep health statement.
“So it makes it even a bigger joke, knowing what it’s like trying to get livestock into WA and yet coming back the other way if they are getting through with the vendor declaration signed by a truck driver, it’s a farce.”
Dr Trengrove believed there needed to be more enforcement around the NVDs and sheep health statements attached to interstate livestock consignments.
“It is crazy if we are trying to maintain any sort of biosecurity in the state those sort of strategies should be a minimum.”
Dr Trengrove said one producer who bought some of the sheep lost 10 percent of 400 ewes over a three month period.
“That’s a pretty alarming death rate.”
Seek vaccinated sheep – PIRSA
The PIRSA spokesperson said its animal health advisers are now assisting the owners of the five affected properties to manage the introduction of the “potentially infected sheep”.
“PIRSA is not aware of an increase in OJD detections in other states; however, given the endemic nature of OJD and the number of sheep movements it is expected that infected animals will be moving across state borders on a regular basis.”
The PIRSA spokesperson said PIRSA advises potential purchasers of sheep from WA to seek out sheep that have been vaccinated for OJD especially approved vaccinates where the vaccine has been used for many years on the farm.
“Completed National Vendor Declarations (NVDs) and National Sheep Health Declarations (NSHDs) are mandatory in SA.
“Good farm biosecurity should always play a central role in any purchasing decision,” the spokesperson said.
“Producers need to check the status of animals before purchasing – check the NVD and NSHD,” the spokesperson said.
“If you do not understand the OJD risk, seek advice from PIRSA or your private veterinary or animal health advisor before purchasing animals or ask specific questions of the vendor.”
The spokesperson said as producers may not know they are infected and this disease may be difficult to detect at low levels, it is advised that they ask for evidence that OJD does not occur on the property, what testing or abattoir surveillance has been undertaken, what biosecurity practices prevent introduction of OJD and for how many years has this been in place.
“Sheep MAP accredited properties have a low risk of disease.”
Is PIRSA investigating the WA sheep consignment paperwork?
PIRSA has refused to confirm or deny if it is aware of or is investigating the introduction of OJD to any affected properties beyond the five it specified. PIRSA also would not say if it knew how many of the WA-sourced sheep on the five SA properties were consigned with correctly completed NVDs and National Sheep Health Declarations.
A SA State Government spokesperson said to support the livestock industry (and) rebuild the state’s flock when drought ends, the Marshall Liberal Government has lifted OJD-related restrictions on the entry of sheep into South Australia.
“This change was supported by the livestock industry and brings South Australia into consistency with the state’s on the eastern seaboard.”
It’s buyer beware on OJD – Keynes
Livestock SA president Joe Keynes said producers need to know that it is now “buyer beware” on OJD.
“So we do have to assess the risk of those animals having OJD or footrot any other endemic disease or condition – we need to assess them before we purchase them.”
He said it was up to the buyer to decide if they wanted to buy approved vaccinates.
“I’m thinking that there are areas in Australia that are very low risk for OJD and I would be confident if I was living in some areas where we have very low incursion of OJD and I brought them from a very low risk area in say the wheatbelt in Western Australia, I would have thought that was a risk that I was willing to take.”
“What it points to is that we must have a much more intensive education process to make sure that producers actually understand the risk and do the due diligence before they purchase animals.”