Sheep and wool producers have been invited to give their views on the future management of Ovine Johne’s Disease (OJD) in Australia.
With the current National Ovine Johne’s Disease Management Plan (NOJDMP) due to finish this year, WoolProducers Australia (WPA) and Sheep Producers Australia (SPA) are seeking feedback a new one.
The current NOJDMP was prepared by WPA and SPA after consultation with industry in 2012-13.
WPA Policy Director, Amanda Olthof, said the current NOJDMP, and the tools underpinning it, would be reviewed to ensure the disease continued to be effectively managed and its spread minimised.
“The current NOJDMP has been effective in its objectives to minimise the risk of infection to properties and regions that appear to be disease free and to reduce the financial impacts and adverse animal health and welfare effects of OJD on sheep flocks and the wider industry,” Ms Olthof said.
She said the plan had seen a number of tools, including vaccination, the National Sheep Health Declaration and SheepMAP had been introduced, during the life of the current plan.
“All those tools, put together, have given producers a really good bag of tricks, to manage the disease,” Ms Olthof said.
Initially the focus was on government regulation.
“At the time, it was thought the disease could be eradicated,” Ms Olthof said.
“The focus has changed to much more of a management approach, it’s now considered endemic.”
Ms Olthof said while OJD was endemic in some sheep production areas of Australia, generally the high rainfall / sheep wheat areas, in other areas it was not known to exist, or was only present at a very low level.
“If unmanaged, OJD can result in significant economic losses on infected farms due to sheep deaths, lost production and trading restrictions,” Ms Olthof said.
The peak bodies called on the review the NOJDMP due to it met the requirements of industry.
The discussion paper also said the feedback, from the review would be used to determine if there was a need for a national framework, for the management of OJD, as well as refining current management strategies.
Ms Olthof said there had been widespread usage of vaccination, throughout the NOJDMP and previous national OJD programs.
“Long term, well-run vaccination programmes will lead to reduced clinical disease in a flock,” she said.
The National Sheep Health Declaration (SHD) was an important risk assessment tool to assist producers to make an informed decision about the health status and management history of the stock when trading sheep.
“These declarations are now available digitally and have been included as a pre-sale requirement in some electronic marketing platforms.”
The declaration was currently mandatory in South Australia and for entry of sheep into NSW.
Ms Olthof said during the NOJDMP, Regional Biosecurity Programs (RBPs) were established in South Australia and Queensland, as well as parts of New South Wales and Victoria.
“Some have been active while others have fallen away, particularly once Queensland deregulated OJD control in July 2016,” Ms Olthof said.
“South Australia remains the only state with regulation for OJD control with state industry funding the program.”
She said the discussion paper would be released to a variety of networks, state farming organisations and breed societies.
“We want to find out whether the tools that are in place now are effective, whether we continue to use them, or try something different,” Ms Olthof said.
“It is important all sheep and wool stakeholders have their say and provide feedback on how OJD should be managed.”
Howard Frampton runs a Merino flock at Joel South, Victoria, and said he had been inoculating his sheep for “a good, long time.”
Mr Frampton said he started the vaccination program, after being advised by a neighbour that his flock had the disease.
“My first reaction was to get Agriculture Victoria to check the sheep, because the Wimmera River flows through this way – the water flows this way, which helps spread it,” Mr Frampton said.
He said there was a trace of infection, in his flock, so he started the vaccination program.
He now vaccinated around 900 sheep, a year.
“I am perfectly happy the way things are going, I will not pass a ewe, without using the vaccine – for us, the system works and I couldn’t let myself not inoculate the sheep, in that way.”
He said inoculation and notification were the keys to managing OJD.
“They have really got to keep it in front of people, it’s no good letting it slip into the background,” Mr Frampton said.
“It’s not something that’s going to go away; it’s something that has to be dealt with.
“The department must keep warnings and information in front of people”
He said the vaccination program was “an acceptable cost,” but it was also important producers immediately notified authorities and neighbours, if they had a problem.
“I think its absolute vital. My neighours didn’t keep it to themselves, they immediately told everyone, as soon as they knew there was a problem.
SPA Animal Health and Welfare manager, Stephen Crisp, said there are currently two broad options, which would be considered in the review process.
“The two options include: the current NOJDMP will cease, however the tools and strategies for managing OJD will continue to be available through the Sheep Health Project and producers will be encouraged to maintain biosecurity for OJD and other diseases and conditions; or a revised OJD framework will be developed based on the current plan and taking in to account stakeholder feedback,” Mr Crisp said.
“The current NOJDMP doesn’t stipulate regulation of OJD management, this can only be determined by individual state jurisdictions, however it is important the industry has its say on effective management.”
The discussion paper and further information is available via www.animalhealthaustralia.com.au/ojd-review/.
An online producer survey is also available at: www.surveymonkey.com/r/ojdplan
Stakeholders are asked to provide feedback by close of business on March 12, 2018.
The NOJDMP is managed by Animal Health Australia on behalf of WPA and SPA.