Johne’s disease management in Queensland

A new risk-based Johne’s disease management approach commenced in Queensland on 1 July 2016. The new approach provides greater flexibility for producers managing Johne’s disease on their property and reduces regulatory burden on the industry.

The outcomes of the national review of Johne’s disease management provide the framework for these changes to occur. The new national framework shifts the focus from government centric regulatory protection to market-driven industry management of Johne’s disease risk.

This approach is consistent with the shared responsibility and risk-based decision making concepts of the Biosecurity Act 2014 which commenced on 1 July 2016.

The regulation of livestock entry from other Australian states and quarantining of Johne’s disease affected properties have been discontinued.

Under the new approach producers have the opportunity and obligation to do what is reasonable and practical to minimise the likelihood and impacts of Johne’s disease in ways that suit them best. Producers should learn about Johne's disease and include steps in their property biosecurity plan to prevent or minimise its occurrence.

The Johne’s disease Guideline (PDF, 128.2KB) provides ways in which a person is to discharge their general biosecurity obligation in relation to Johne’s disease. This Guideline is simplified in a Factsheet.

Transition arrangements end on 30 June 2017

The shift from regulatory protection to industry management included transition benefits for Queensland beef producers. Properties which had no prior infection (most properties in Queensland) were allocated a score of 7 in the new national Johne's disease - Beef Assurance Score (J-BAS) scheme. A score of 7 is consistent with the previous recognition of low prevalence and regulatory management of Johne's disease in the state.

The transition period for changing to the new national JD management system ends on 30 June 2017.

From 1 July 2017, Queensland beef herd owners have the following options:

  1. Maintain current low-risk status (J-BAS 7)
    1. By 30 June 2017 - Apply a farm biosecurity plan which has been developed and is implemented and reviewed annually by a veterinarian
    2. By 30 June 2018 - Check Test (testing of 50 representative adult cattle from the herd)
    3. Ongoing – Maintain an annual veterinary review of the property biosecurity plan and a Check test every three years
  2. Minimal management of low risk (J-BAS 6)
    1. By 30 June 2017 - Apply a farm biosecurity plan that addresses JD risks
    2. Involvement of veterinarian in the farm biosecurity plan is not required
    3. Testing is not required
    4. Lapse to J-BAS score 6
  3. Do nothing (J-BAS 0)
    1. By 30 June 2017 - Choose or fail to apply a farm biosecurity plan that addresses JD risks
    2. Lapse to J-BAS 0
  4. Maximal assurance (J-BAS 8)
    1. Biosecurity plan, with veterinary input
    2. Sample Test (210-300 adult cattle sampled), repeated two years apart
    3. Ongoing veterinary supervision and triennial Check Test

Note that herds will automatically drop to J-BAS score 0 (equivalent to the score of an infected and unmanaged herd) unless they have applied an on-farm biosecurity plan by 30 June 2017.

A herd which has lapsed to 0 or 6 after 30 June 2017 will need to meet the advancement requirements of J-BAS to get back to score 7.  The advancement requirements for score 7 are a Sample Test plus a property biosecurity plan written and implemented in collaboration with a veterinary advisor.

Queensland herd owners who wish to maintain their current assurance status of low risk (J-BAS score 7) are advised to liaise with their preferred veterinary practitioner to write up a biosecurity plan well before 30 June 2017.

Cattle veterinarians who want to provide Johne’s disease advice to clients are advised to undertake the training which is available through Animal Health Australia free of charge.  This is the best way of demonstrating competence in this complex field.

Safely purchasing and selling livestock

Producers introducing livestock onto their properties should seek assurances about the health of the livestock as part of their property biosecurity management plans.

When purchasing livestock, producers should assess and manage the associated Johne’s disease risk. Certain situations will increase the risk of spreading the disease and producers are required to assess those risks every time they purchase new livestock.

Johne’s disease is most commonly spread by the movement of infected livestock.

The new framework provides flexibility for livestock producers to take necessary biosecurity precautions depending on the risk for their particular situation. 

Health statements/declarations

The simplest way producers can seek assurances about the health status of livestock they wish to purchase is to request a written health statement or declaration

If a health statement is unclear or does not include sufficient detail, a producer may ask for more information, reject the animals as unsatisfactory or accept the animals and appropriately manage the risk.

While the health statement is a key tool in assessing the risk of introducing Johne’s disease, producers must also take appropriate on-farm steps to reduce the likelihood of spreading the disease. For high-risk animals, this may include isolating the animals, retaining them only for growing out and fattening and slaughter, decontaminating paddocks after exit or monitoring health by regular testing.

Producers can use the national health statement templates from Farm Biosecurity Australia. 

High-risk livestock purchases

There is a higher risk of introducing Johne’s disease when purchasing livestock from properties confirmed or suspected to have had the disease, or when purchasing livestock from high-risk areas or industry sectors (especially those with incomplete historical records).

High-risk animals include:

  • dairy or dairy-cross cattle from Tasmania, Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia—unless those cattle have a CattleMAP status of MN1 or better or a Dairy Assurance Score of 8 or better        
  • cattle, which when under 12 months of age, have grazed on land that was also grazed by high-risk sheep or cattle        
  • livestock from a property that is known or suspected to be infected with Johne’s disease— unless the animals are shown to be low-risk individuals            
  • sheep from the central and southern highlands of New South Wales, or Victoria or Tasmania— unless those sheep originate from a regional biosecurity plan area or from a property that has a SheepMAP status of MN1 or better, or are from a closed flock that has been tested negative by a PFC350 test or Abattoir Monitoring 500 test in the previous 2 years.          

The risk of establishing Johne’s disease once it  has been introduced is higher for properties where livestock are retained, such as for breeding or wool or milk production, rather than held for a short period for fattening and slaughter.

Low-risk livestock purchases

For dairy cattle, low risk would be indicated if the cattle have not been on a property which is known or suspected of Johne’s disease infection, or from an interstate property which has a CattleMAP status of MN1, MN2 or MN3.

The risk of establishing Johne’s disease is lower when animals are kept in isolation for short periods of  time, such as backgrounding, feed lotting or they are consigned direct to slaughter.

What happens if livestock are infected with Johne’s disease?

If you suspect their livestock have Johne’s disease, isolate the livestock and contact Biosecurity Queensland on 13 25 23.

Under the new approach, Biosecurity Queensland will not restrict livestock movement or quarantine the property. Biosecurity Queensland will direct you to information that will help them understand and manage Johne’s disease. Producers will need to take practical and reasonable steps  to  contain  the  infection on their property and reduce the risk of spreading the disease further.

Producers should work with their local veterinarian to manage and meet their obligation regarding Johne’s disease.

Compliance monitoring and industry support

Biosecurity Queensland will undertake a surveillance program to monitor compliance with the new Johne’s disease framework. Biosecurity Queensland, in consultation with livestock producers, has produced guidelines for managing the risk of Johne’s disease infection (PDF, 128.2KB).

More information

Last updated 28 March 2017