Call for full BJD eradication

27 Jul, 2006 07:00 PM
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A MARGARET River farmer whose herd was infected with Bovine Johne's Disease (BJD) nearly three decades ago says the latest Albany outbreak should be cleaned up to to maintain WA's BJD-free status.

He has also called for a full disclosure of details of the recent outbreak to make the industry aware and ensure it does not happen again.

Murray Grey breeder Cliff Owen, Bundaleer stud, knows all too well what the affected Albany property's owner is going through.

Mr Owen's BJD-infected herd was one of eight cases detected in WA between 1952 and 1994.

His herd was slaughtered in 1983, following an autopsy and histology on an animal purchased at a dispersal sale in Victoria in 1977. This animal tested positive for BJD.

He said he had no knowledge that the heifer was infected until the disease was traced back to the animal.

Mr Owen said the heifer had not shown any clinical symptoms of the disease, up until about three months before her death.

The disease was eradicated then, and he believes the state is better off being BJD-free.

The BJD advisory committee will investigate the extent of the disease in WA to decide if eradication is possible and cost-effective.

Neighbouring properties to the Albany farm are currently being tested and their stock movements traced.

Mr Owen said if the decision was made to live with the disease, as it was with Ovine Johne's Disease, he would be disappointed, particularly after what he had experienced with his infected herds.

Mr Owen said all the animals in the infected heifer herd were slaughtered.

Animals that were sold on were traced and also disposed of.

Mr Owen's property was quarantined for two years on the wet areas and one on the dry areas, but he elected to further extend this period to ensure the disease was destroyed.

Breeding stock were not introduced on to the property for four years.

He received assistance in selection of new stock from industry leaders, but said it was a very expensive exercise to replace the herd.

Mr Owen said a stigma remained attached to his property for some time.

He said if due diligence had been carried out in 1977, the animal should not have left Victoria let alone get through the WA border surveillance.

He has called for a full disclosure of how the Albany outbreak occurred and said it should be made known to all those in the industry, with the intention of drawing awareness so it did not happen again.

Agriculture Department district veterinary officer at the time of the outbreak, Roy Casey, said the recent outbreak could prove more difficult to eradicate than in 1983.

Mr Casey said he believed stock from the Albany herd had been sold on the open market, due to no fault of the producer.

This would mean the disease could be widespread.

He hoped that eradication was possible, but it depended on the extent of the disease.

"It would be great if we could keep our BJD-free status, because it gives us access to markets without doing testing," he said.

Mr Casey said at the time of the outbreak on Mr Owen's property, it was policy to enforce complete destocking.

"We tried to be as fair as we could, through the industry's compensation fund," he said.

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