Corryong sheep producer acts swiftly on Johnes outbreak

Corryong sheep producer acts swiftly on Johnes outbreak

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RESTOCKING: Corryong-based Stephen Hill was at Bendigo to restock after having his flock declared positive for Ovine Johnes.

RESTOCKING: Corryong-based Stephen Hill was at Bendigo to restock after having his flock declared positive for Ovine Johnes.

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By acting quickly, Stephen Hill hopes to bring Ovine Johnes under control in his sheep flock.

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A devastating diagnosis of Ovine Johnes in his flock has seen Stephen Hill, Corryong, move quickly to address the issue.

The diagnosis of the presence of the disease in his sheep flock was "devastating" for Mr Hill.

The sheep producer said it was "sad" having to sell the ewes he had been breeding for more than 20 years.

His livestock operation is a self-replacing Merino and first-cross ewe flock.

He said 2018 had been his best year ever with a top bale of lambs wool and he topped the Corowa, NSW, lamb sale with his best lambs.

He first noticed a few sheep, wethers mainly, looking "ordinary" in February/March this year.

Later at crutching time he noticed a few more looking sick and some had died.

He called in a local vet who carried out a post mortem and results of analysis came back positive for Ovine Johnes.

With advice, Mr Hill decided rather than do nothing, he would starting a destocking program.

"The reality is that the infection rate is increasing so there's no point in delaying the decision," he said.

He kept the sheep through to shearing and then culled the older portion of the flock.

The sale sheep were sent direct to the abattoir.

"It was surprising how quickly the disease takes effect," he said.

"But it appears the wether portion is worst affected.

"It might be because they are used to clean up paddocks."

Mr Hill was at the recent Bendigo associated agents Merino sale on the look-out for suitable replacements.

He wanted sheep vaccinated for Johnes and bought a line of 208 young ewes for $166 a head that fit the bill.

"I'll start breeding out of those next year," he said.

"I will vaccinate any sheep I retain on-farm from this year's drop of lambs and try and cull out the older ewes as quickly as possible.

"It was good to these replacement ewes, it's a step in the right direction.

"Hopefully in a couple of years it will be a thing of the past."

He said there was no need to vaccinate sheep that were going to be held on-farm.

he said the lambs from the first-cross ewes were sold well before any sign of Johnes.

He said the first vaccination reduced the incidence by 90 per cent.

When the lambs out of vaccinated ewes were vaccinated it reduced the incidence by 90pc again.

Mr Hill introduced the crossbred flock when wool prices for his superfine Merinos fell drastically.

"I just wasn't making much money so I started breeding some crossbred ewes," he said.

"I was always going to get rid of them when the wool market improved but now the lamb job is so good I can't get rid of them."

He said the crossbred ewes also didn't seem to be affected by the Johnes.

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