THE bluetongue virus zone has moved further south following recent testing results.
Northern WA cattle stations are being tested for the virus, under the National Arbovirus Monitoring Program (NAMP).
Although a handful of stations are yet to be tested, results have already found 10 stations are in the bluetongue zone.
Unlike the Eastern States and the Kimberley, the Pilbara is within the bluetongue-free zone.
Department of Agriculture and Food animal disease surveillance manager Marion Seymour said 10 new pastoral leases were recently included into the bluetongue zone in the shires of Derby, West Kimberley and Halls Creek in July due to the new detection of bluetongue virus transmission near Fitzroy Crossing.
The southern stations included in the zone did not wish to be named publicly, but Haydn Sale who runs Yougawalla Pastoral Company's Yougawalla, Bulka and Margaret River stations, near Fitzroy Crossing, said it will definitely affect them.
"All three of our properties were outside the zone, and as of Friday week, we have now moved into the zone," Mr Sale said.
"This has a massive impact on us, as we had the option of a variety of markets before.
"Now, we can't send our cattle as easily to the Middle East, Israel or Jordan; which have been good markets for us in the past few years.
"It's a massive issue for us, if China comes about, they won't take us unless the Government looks at that.
"The issue for China, a developing market, is they don't take bluetongue cattle as part of their protocol.
"So that wipes out all of us in the north, so hopefully they will drop bluetoungue out of the protocol... as it only affects sheep and not cattle."
Mr Sale said even though two of his stations had been in the zone 12 months ago, they had the option to move those cattle south to their bluetongue free zone station for 60 days before they were exported to those markets.
He said they still had that option, but it was not as viable now as most of the area was in the zone.
"It's pretty disappointing for everyone that we have lost (the ease of access to) all those market options and can't export straight from the station," Mr Sale said.
"To have all those options was good, we still have Indonesia, but I wouldn't like to bet on the fact they will continue to take as much as they have previously."
Explaining the zone change, Dr Seymour said if evidence of bluetongue virus was detected, the bluetongue zone was increased to reflect this change.
Areas could be reclassified as a free zone after two years of monitoring without finding evidence of bluetongue virus.
Testing is carried out in locations where the infection may occur sporadically and in other areas which are expected to be arbovirus-free (such as further south) in order to verify the free zone.
The testing is completed under the NAMP, which specifically monitors for the bluetongue virus, Akabane and bovine ephemeral fever.
Dr Seymour said that some of the countries that import live cattle, including China and Israel, required that Australia certifies that the cattle are sourced from areas free of the virus.
But she said most pastoralists in WA's north will not be affected, as they export to Indonesia and Egypt.
"When carrying out NAMP testing, we hope we will not find evidence of the virus so that pastoralists have access to these markets but it is important to undertake the surveillance so that importing countries have confidence in our surveillance systems," she said.
"Without the testing carried out under NAMP, WA livestock would be ineligible to be exported to bluetongue-sensitive countries as we would not be able to provide evidence of which areas are free of the virus. The co-operation of the cattle industry across Australia is crucial to the surveillance activity.''
The NAMP also monitors the distribution of economically important insect-borne viruses of livestock and their vectors.
This season's properties in the bluetongue virus free zones of WA as of July include the Shires of Broome, East Pilbara, Roebourne, Ashburton and shires south of the Pilbara.
Officers are finishing off the last of the blood samples at cattle stations at strategic sites in WA, while DAFWA's animal health laboratories analyses the samples.
p For more information visit www.agric.wa.gov.au or www.namp.animalhealth