Johne’s disease management in Queensland

A 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 Queensland approach aligns with a new national framework which 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 (PDF, 1.1MB).

National tools for managing Johne’s disease

The national industry bodies for beef cattle, dairy cattle, sheep, goats and alpaca have developed tools and standards for managing Johne’s disease.  Details of these are available from Animal Health Australia.

These national tools include:

  • Health Declaration - for vendors to declare the risks and management of a range of health conditions (including but not only Johne’s disease), and to enable buyers to assess and make decisions relevant to those risks
  • Johne’s Beef Assurance Score (J-BAS) - a simple risk profiling tool for assessing, promoting and managing Johne’s disease risks in beef cattle
  • Johne’s disease Dairy Score – for assessing and declaring Johne’s disease risks in dairy cattle
  • Johne’s disease Checklist - lists key elements to consider in planning, assessing and managing Johne’s disease risks in cattle
  • Biosecurity plan templates – enable producers to assess and write up a plan to manage a range of biosecurity risks on their property, including Johne’s disease
  • Johne’s disease in Cattle Definitions and Guidelines - to standardise terms and practices for managing Johne’s disease in cattle.
  • Ovine Johne’s disease Definitions and Guidelines - to standardise terms and practices for managing Johne’s disease in sheep
  • Market Assurance Programs – quality assurance for sheep (SheepMAP), goat (GoatMAP) and alpaca (AlpacaMAP) owners to demonstrate confidence that their livestock are not infected with Johne’s disease.

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.

Score arrangements for dairy

The scoring system for managing JD in dairy cattle was simplified in early 2019 and is called Johne’s Disease Dairy Score.

The 2019 plan has less reliance on calf separation than the previous plan.  It recognises vaccination as a method of reducing the impacts of Johne’s disease and continues to value the farm biosecurity plan and herd testing.  In the context of Johne’s Disease Dairy Score, a farm biosecurity plan should specifically address Johne’s disease risks, and a herd test will ordinarily be a Herd Environmental Culture (HEC) Test on a sample of slurry.

Transition arrangements for the 2019 plan required slurry sampling for HEC testing to have been completed by 30 June 2019, so have now ended.

This is a summary of Johne’s Disease Dairy Score arrangements for Queensland dairy farmers:

  • If you have an annual discussion and endorsement of your biosecurity plan with your veterinarian, and your first HEC Test was sampled before 30 June 2019 and tested with a negative result, you are eligible for JDDS of 8.
  • To maintain a Johne’s Disease Dairy Score of 8, you must continue to engage your veterinarian every year in discussion and endorsement of your biosecurity plan, and complete a HEC test with negative results every two years.  If you don’t engage your veterinarian every year in your biosecurity plan, your score will lapse to 7.
  • If you chose to have a Dairy Score of 7 under the 2016 plan by doing a HEC Test but without veterinary endorsement of your biosecurity plan, you may retain that score under the 2019 plan.
  • To maintain a Johne’s Disease Dairy Score of 7, you must continue your biosecurity plan and complete a HEC test with negative results every two years.  If you don’t do a HEC test with negative results every two years, you could do a HEC test every three years and your score would lapse to 6, or do no further HEC tests and your score will lapse to 4.
  • If you choose to manage JD risks by only having a biosecurity plan and not by any herd testing, your property Johne’s Disease Dairy Score is 4 under the 2019 plan.
  • Herds which don’t have a biosecurity plan that addresses Johne’s disease risks default to score 0.  Due to the requirements for a farm biosecurity plan by both LPA and most dairy processors, score 0 should not apply to any dairy farm.
  • The score for any property on which there has been a clinical case (scouring and wasting diagnosed as due to JD) in the past 5 years is determined initially by the time since the last clinical case.  The score may then progress through vaccinating and herd testing with negative results.

Further information is available at Dairy Australia.

Score arrangements for beef

There was a transitional arrangement for beef herds in Queensland to claim a J-BAS score of 7, but that ceased on 30 June 2018.

Queensland beef herds which have a biosecurity plan that addresses the JD Checklist are eligible for J-BAS score 6 (unless their herd has had clinical JD in the past 5 years).  Herds which have a biosecurity plan signed by a veterinary advisor and had undertaken a Check Test with negative results in the three years prior to 30 June 2018 are eligible for J-BAS score 7.

Any beef herd which wants to progress to J-BAS score 7 must have a biosecurity plan signed by a veterinary advisor and undergo a Sample Test (210-300 samples, depending on herd size).

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. Producers who wish to avoid spreading Johne’s disease onto their property should 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 declarations

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

If a health declaration 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 declaration 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 declaration templates from Farm Biosecurity.

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 Johne's Disease Dairy Score or J-BAS score of 8
  • beef cattle which have had contact with the southern states’ dairy industry (raised on a dairy property, or a property that was formerly a dairy property before dairy de-regulation, or a beef property which used dairy or dairy-cross cattle as breeders or embryo transfer recipients)
  • livestock from a property that is known or suspected to be infected with Johne’s disease (in Queensland or interstate)— unless the animals are shown to be low-risk individuals
  • sheep from the high rainfall areas of 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
  • beef cattle which have co-grazed with infected sheep flocks
  • cattle and sheep which have lost their lifetime traceability and connection to the above risk factors by having been traded.

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 Johne's Disease Dairy Score of 8.

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 Johne’s disease is suspected or confirmed?

If you suspect your livestock have Johne’s disease, isolate the livestock and contact your private veterinary practitioner. Your veterinarian can assist in confirming or ruling out Johne’s disease.

If testing confirms the presence of Johne’s disease, Biosecurity Queensland must be notified. Under the new approach, Biosecurity Queensland does not restrict livestock movement or quarantine any property due to suspected or confirmed Johne’s disease. The notification is necessary to support health certification for export of livestock from Queensland.

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. Your veterinarian can also provide advice on how to responsibly manage biosecurity risks of Johne’s disease in your particular situation.

More information