THE resounding messages to come from the panel at last week's OJD forum, hosted by the Stud Merino Breeders Association of WA, was for producers to vaccinate flocks to remove the stigma attached to OJD.
With the new national OJD management plan still in limbo, three months after it was meant to be implemented, there were plenty of questions for the panellists at the forum.
One panel member keen to get his point across was Dorper breeder and veterinarian Dr Adrian Veitch, who has felt first hand the effects of the disease on his stud, after recording a positive test 12 months ago.
Dr Veitch said the way the industry had structured the management of OJD had led to a stigma.
"Once you have had it no one wants to know you," he said.
"In terms of losses the disease hasn't cost me anything but the stigma attached to it has cost me more than $1 million and reputation.
"At the moment if you have one positive test you are treated like others who are losing 20 per cent of their flock to the disease.
"OJD is in every sheep-producing country but we are the only ones worried about.
"In New Zealand they treat it like the common cold.
"Producers are losing money hand over foot with other diseases but they don't have the stigma attached to them like OJD."
Dr Veitch believes with vaccination and the right management, OJD can be eradicated in certain environments but research needed to be done on dryland farming systems as presently all research on the disease has been held in high rainfall, high stocking rate areas.
Also part of the panel was farm consultant Andrew Ritchie, Icon Agriculture, who was in total support of Dr Veitch's views.
He said he totally endorsed Dr Veitch's views in regards to the stigma with the disease and the effects it has on a property.
"In regards to the management of the disease with our clients, we have taken the attitude it is an uncontrollable disease," Mr Ritchie said
"Basically as a result the district has accepted that if a neighbour has it they must have it too."
Mr Ritchie said they advised clients to start vaccinating as soon as they think they had OJD as it was the best way to reduce losses.
"Yes vaccination is a cost but when you work it into the figures you don't notice it and it is a big insurance policy," Mr Ritchie said.
"We have also found management is a big key in controlling and minimising the disease.
"If you get your management wrong you are exposing yourself even more.
"If you let your sheep get into poor condition the disease will also spread faster than those in the same area which are fed well.
"You need to make sure feeding systems are up to scratch because we have discovered if you have OJD and you get a bad year, you get a double whammie in terms of production and losses and this also has an effect on production the following year."
WoolProducers Australia president Geoff Power said the new national OJD management plan was still being finalised and the implementation had been pushed back to July 1.
He said in simple terms it now appeared that South Australia and Queensland will have regulated entry requirements and they will assist on tested assurances while the other States will be deregulated.
"In the end as it is an epidemic disease and these types of disease are controlled by the States and they will do what they see fit and therefore the idea of controlled and protected regions within States has been withdrawn from the plan," Mr Power said.
"Basically at this stage national industry intends to develop a simplified Sheep Health Statement and strongly supports maintaining abattoir surveillance, vaccination and further research and development into the disease."
Also during the event there was a move on the floor from Belmont Park stud principal Malcolm Edward, for money to be spent on research into the disease in dryland areas.
This was supported by the meeting.