ANSWERS WANTED: Attendees at the Biosecurity Queensland cattle tick meeting in Chinchilla.
ANSWERS WANTED: Attendees at the Biosecurity Queensland cattle tick meeting in Chinchilla. Brooke Duncan

Graziers search for answers after cattle tick outbreak

EMOTIONS ran high as dozens of graziers gathered for an emergency Biosecurity Queensland meeting about the Western Downs tick outbreak.

A fourth Western Downs property was placed under restrictions after a cattle tick was identified, it came after three properties in the Chinchilla district were identified with cattle ticks last month and placed under movement controls.

Among those who attended the meeting were the neighbours of the four properties in the Chinchilla and Tara area that had been contaminated.

Biosecurity Queensland acting principal policy officer for cattle ticks, David McNab faced the crowd of graziers at the Chinchilla RSL last Tuesday morning.

Mr McNab said the infestation could be traced back to a consignment of livestock at the Dalby Saleyards in May, which was "not at all surprising”.

He said the investigation into the outbreak was ongoing, but "all of the infested properties that we have at the moment are all associated with each other”.

"This is not out of control, this is simply because these people have moved to various blocks that they have, and we're still working with them to track those incidences down,” he said.

But for some locals, Mr McNab's assurances weren't convincing.

Landmark Chinchilla livestock agent Terry Ryan asked why, if the ticks were discovered at Dalby on May 15, the public was not advised of the first instance of cattle tick until July 6.

Mr McNab said throughout the meeting that those who needed to know about outbreaks were contacted directly by Biosecurity Queensland.

"If you're in the district but haven't been spoken to, it's because you haven't been assessed as high risk,” he said.

"We make those assessments based on infestation levels, which side of the properties they are, et cetera, so just because you're close by and haven't been spoken to, it's because we don't believe you're at risk.”

Attendees questioned the privacy afforded to those found with cattle ticks, particularly when a spread could cause neighbours a significant financial burden for eradication through no fault of their own at a time when cost of production was soaring.

But on that point Mr McNab would not be moved.

He said besides the fact that historically cattle ticks were best managed by working with properties directly affected and their neighbours, property owners facing cattle tick infestation or other outbreaks had to foot the bill for eradication and were also hit with an "extreme” amount of industry and community backlash.

"We see this all the time; I've had kids chucked off school buses because they were the neighbour to a Hendra property, I kid you not,” Mr McNab said.

"The people who need to know about it we get hold of and we find it always works from that context.”

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