CONCERNS: Koumala producer Adrian McMillan says the biosecurity changes have been brought in too quickly.
CONCERNS: Koumala producer Adrian McMillan says the biosecurity changes have been brought in too quickly. Jorunn Lorenzen

Farmers frustrated with biosecurity changes

BEEF producers are confused about the changes in biosecurity regulation and expressed concerns the measures were not effective in reality at last week's workshop in Sarina.

Koumala Beef Producer Adrian McMillan said he was there to get a grasp of what the biosecurity and the JBAS are.

"It is very unclear because it has been rushed and we are being dictated to say if we don't put this into place we are not able to shift the cattle,” he said.

He said Johne's Disease was not a big problem in the local area.

"I am not against biosecurity, it is just the way that it has been brought in, it is not actually legislation it has been brought in by an industry body,” he said.

Amongst others he had the impression that Meat and Livestock Australia had brought in the Johne's Beef Assurance Score as well as the Biosecurity Plan.

He said a more practical solution would have been to allow farmers from the industry to provide input and take more time for farmers to be educated about the changes.

He had tried to contact MLA with questions about the changes but could not receive a response.

"You can ring MLA now and you won't get any straight answers, there is no one that you can talk to,” he said.

"I am told to go on the internet and read through all the rubbish on there.”

"People are running blind, this is the only workshop we are going to have until the time it comes in and a lot of people couldn't come here today.”

Rachael O'Brien from the Livestock Biosecurity Network explained the JBAS was implemented to allow farmers to manage Johne's disease in cattle, after the disease had been deregulated.

"It is still notifiable, but how that is management is different,” Ms O'Brien said.

"Under regulation if you had JD you would be quarantined for it and you would have to eradicate that with help of Queensland Government.

"Under the new system JBAS it is about the market.

"If you are trading into a JD sensitive market there may be a need to participate in the scheme.”

JD sensitive markets are Western Australia and the Northern Territory, as in both states JD remain regulated. People trying to buy into these markets have to participate in the JBAS scheme.

Farmers are concerned as to how Saleyards would manage the scheme and questioned how cattle with different scores could be sold at the same yards. The fear was that the market driven score would segregate the markets and limit their opportunities, requiring them to participate in higher levels of the JBAS which require veterinarian assessment and associated costs.

Meat and Livestock Australia commented that JBAS changes are being communicated by Animal Health Australia (AHA) on behalf of the Cattle Council of Australia (CCA).

A spokesperson for AHA said the tool was owned by CCA and managed through AHA.

The spokesperson said JBAS was in place before CattleMAP, the prior tool to manage Johne's Disease in beef. CattleMAP was closed in November 2016 after it was found unsustainable with a decline of around 50% over five years, the AHA spokesperson said.

The spokesperson said that AHA acknowledged that messaging did not make its way to all producers, despite coverage at the beginning of the transitioning stage until June 2017. Communication was further challenged by the WA and NT government decisions to use JBAS as a regulatory tool.

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