CENTRAL Queensland Brahman breeder Tony Fenech is preparing to cull a $12,000 bull he bought at Brahman Week last month in a bid to clear his herd from BJD suspicion.
Mr Fenech said he was taking the action on the recommendation of his vet, who said killing the bull and then conducting a post mortem would be the only sure way of quickly confirming the animal's health status and containing the risk.
Mr Fenech said he had heard of other studmasters and commercial cattle producers also doing the same, although this remains unconfirmed.
Biosecurity Queensland, which is at the centre of a major program to eradicate Bovine Johne's Disease since it was detected at the Rockley Brahman Stud, Bajool near Rockhampton last Friday, has advised beef producers not to cull animals purchased from the Rockley stud until tests can be carried out by government officials.
However Mr Fenech said the condemned bull was his only Rockley sire and the animal had been kept in isolation since his delivery in October.
"We don't want to do it, but we just need to cut our losses and do it fast," he said. "If he comes up clear we can keep operating. Apart from a short time when we had him with a small mob of junior bulls he's been on his own and we haven't run him with any cows so if he comes up clear we should be able to keep operating."
Mr Fenech said he would not advise other breeders or beef producers to cull their animals if they suspected the contamination had spread among bigger numbers.
"I really feel for the Kirks at Rockley," he said. "They really are just devastated about this and they are good operators who have done everything right and certainly don't deserve what's happened to them.
"The last thing they should be doing is culling their herd. That's two to three generations of breeding there and once you've got rid of your cattle you've got nothing. It's a bit different in my case - we're only talking about one bull."
Mr Fenech said if BJD had spread into commercial operations, he doubted Biosecurity Queensland would be able to eradicate the disease.
"If you have infected bulls running with 30,000 breeders where does the eradication program end? You can't kill them all," he said.
"We have worse things in Queensland that can potentially kill more cattle like three-day sickness, tick fever and even dingoes, but they are managed. This BJD should also be managed just like it is down south with vaccinations. The government should think long and hard about what it does from here."
Biosecurity Queensland issued a statement this morning indicating the net to quarantine cattle properties with a connection to the Rockley stud had been widened.
There are also reports the probe to trace more cattle with a recent connection to the Rockley stud has extended into NSW, the NT and Western Australia, the only State with BJD-free status under the National BJD Management Plan.
The deepening crisis has prompted Queensland Agriculture Minister John McVeigh to hold urgent talks in Rockhampton tomorrow.
"I will be heading to Rockhampton tomorrow morning to meet with key industry stakeholders including - Agforce, Cattle Council of Australia - the Australian Brahman Breeders’ Association and selling agents to discuss our plans to quickly identify the properties affected, quarantine and testing procedures,” he said.
Australian Brahman Breeders Association chief executive John Croaker has appealed for calm among his members, saying he did not believe the contamination would be widespread.
"We have about 1200 members and I expect only a very small proportion of them will be affected," he said. "Even though it is devastating for the people directly impacted by this we need to keep this in perspective."
Mr McVeigh said movement restrictions would be placed on identified properties until Biosecurity Queensland staff could conduct risk assessments.
“The risk assessment processes are expected to take a number of months,” he said.
“Biosecurity Queensland will work with property owners to develop an individual Property Disease Investigation Plan (PDIP).
“The aim is to conduct the risk assessments and undertake sampling and testing activities on each affected property to resolve the property’s disease status as quickly as possible.
“Affected producers are urged not to move or slaughter trace forward stock as this may greatly extend the time a property is under movement restrictions.
“Sampling and testing will be performed by Biosecurity Queensland field staff. Private veterinarians working on affected properties should seek advice from Biosecurity Queensland first about movement restrictions and the sampling and testing process.
“BJD test results can take up to 12 weeks or longer which is standard for this test. Even for livestock tested immediately, definitive results will not be available before March 2013.
"I understand that this will be a difficult and challenging process for some livestock owners. Biosecurity Queensland is working closely with all parties to contain any further infection and resolve cases as quickly as we can.”
Affected producers who have been placed under movement restrictions by Biosecurity Queensland can apply for support under the National BJD Financial and Non-Financial Assistance Package.
Bovine Johne’s disease (BJD) is a serious disease of cattle and other ruminant species.
It can cause chronic diarrhoea or ill-thrift, leading to emaciation and eventually death. There is no effective treatment and it is not a risk to human health.
The disease lives in the soil. It generally infects young calves but doesn’t become apparent for a couple of years.
BJD is endemic in Victoria and parts of South Australia and New South Wales.
Queensland has a very low prevalence of BJD through requirements for entry of stock to the state, and by rigorous control of known or suspected infection.