Why JD Testing is important to the Queensland Dairy Industry.

Last week, QDO hit the impressive milestone of 200 Johnes Disease (JD) tests completed as part of our biosecurity commitment to mitigate on farm risks to our members. According to the project team, this equates to 100kg of faecal samples collected over the last 3 months, which just goes to show QDO’s dedication to herd health!

Many non-member dairy farmers questioned why QDO had undertaken the JD testing scheme in the first place when Johnes is not known to be present in any significant level in Queensland.

Much is unknown about Johnes Disease including the health risks it may carry to humans who consume product from JD positive livestock however many countries limit the import of stock and also milk products from JD infected farms.

To be clear, our intention to test for JD is not to cause undue concern or hysteria about a disease that has been in the Australian market for decades. Indeed, according to the USDA, JD is found in all countries around the world.

QDO’s decision to commit to the program was made back in 2016 based on our mandate to mitigate potential risks that may be caused by biosecurity hazards. Good herd health is vital for productivity and remains a priority for our members. Future economic ramifications for farmers with herds carrying JD should also be to be a consideration.

The Johne’s Beef Assurance Score and the Dairy Score that farmers are given following testing allows for the assessment of the risk of a herd for JD. Depending on the outcome of testing, a farmer may wish to amend their biosecurity plan for the property. Although the scoring systems are a voluntary tool in most states, they are part of the WA and NT entry requirements. It makes sense therefore for any farm that may consider de-stocking or selling breeding stock intrastate or interstate to ensure they maintain a good score.

QDO has been in contact with all its members to offer JD testing before the 30 June cut-off date. Time is certainly running out for non-members wishing to be tested by QDO at no additional cost. To join and be tested, contact QDO on 3236 2955 today.

 QDO President – Brian Tessmann

Are harsher penalties the answer to tackling animal activism?

In light of recent disturbances, the Queensland Government’s Department of Agriculture and Fisheries set up an Animal Industries Security Taskforce. Made up of representatives from the Department, The Queensland Police Service (QPS) and national and state primary industry groups, the taskforce is designed to help protect the rights of farmers and other livestock industries targeted by animal activists.

Minister Furner’s commitment to harsher penalties for animal activists who break the law was one outcome from the taskforce’s first meeting. The rapid response to recent events shows the Queensland Government’s determination to keep our farmers, their families, workers and livestock safe and is to be commended.

However, there is still a lot of criticism from farmers of the current laws surrounding trespass, break and enter and wilful damage to property and of the ability and willingness of the police to prosecute. Much of this criticism comes from a lack of understanding of the police’s powers to act and the process required to prosecute.

The government’s announcement of greater fines (of more than $600) and potentially jail time for those considered to be a threat to biosecurity and animal and worker welfare, is good news for the livestock industry, but the question remains as to whether harsher penalties will deter these individuals.

The animal activist groups responsible for the recent disruptions are highly coordinated and tiptoe very closely on the right side of the law.

In statements prior to events, activist organisers are clear that demonstrations are to be peaceful and that violence will not be tolerated. They have also been instructed to leave once formally asked to do so by property owners and police.

So, it is unusual that these demonstrators break the current laws for which they could be penalised.

The fact remains that the onus is unfortunately on the victim to ensure that these people are prosecuted. For the police and courts to do their jobs, a formal process must be followed. Firstly, the property or business owner must report the incident to the police (via their local police, PoliceLink or in case of an emergency 000). Secondly, they must make a complaint as to the law which has potentially been broken. It is only after that point that the police can begin the arduous task of prosecution.

Certainly, the law is not black and white. Trespass relates to entering land whereas break and enter relates to entering a dwelling or place (calf sheds for example). Contrary to popular belief, trespassing, regardless of city or rural location is not an indictable offence whereas break and enter is in most instances.

It seems that a legal degree is required to even determine whether someone is committing an offence or not!

We can sympathise with the DAF and QPS officers sent out to these disturbances. As much as they want to crack down on demonstrators who intimidate and terrorise people who simply want to go about their business, they are bound by the limitations of the law.

Animal activists will continue to walk the fine line between legal and illegal activities. While we hope that harsher penalties will deter demonstrators we may need to make the laws surrounding trespass and break and enter more clear cut and simpler to prosecute.

QDO Executive Officer Eric Danzi

Johne’s testing begins across Queensland.

In 2017, QDO committed to undertake Johne’s testing for its members free of charge. The deadline for testing had been extended by the Australian Dairy Farmers  and now has a final deadline date of 30 September this year. While Johne’s has not yet been detected in any significant numbers in Queensland, QDO and the Queensland Government want to be proactive and have a statistical baseline for ongoing monitoring.

To test as many herds as possible over the next few months, QDO has employed a new graduate Lara Williams to work with Project Manager, Torie Harrison. Lara has a Bachelor in Sustainable Agriculture from University of Queensland (Gatton) and has previously worked in agronomy focusing on hydroponics and running trials to improve productivity and sustainability. 

New QDO recruit, Lara Williamson

New QDO recruit, Lara Williamson

While the JD testing process is not complex, it does involve some significant coordination to ensure that samples are viable. The samples are taken by scraping the dairy yard after milking in an ‘X’ or ‘W’ pattern. For the testing method, Herd Environmental Cultures, the perfect environment for bacteria growth is provided to encourage the growth of BJD bacteria, if present, so it can be detected. The BJD bacteria is a very slow growing organism so results take 14 to 16 weeks.

QDO is also helping the  Department of Agriculture and Fisheries by supplying samples to their lab. They are looking at an alternate testing method to identify BJD through the identification of the bacteria’s DNA. If successful, this method will provide a faster result on samples so farms can respond quicker to any outbreak.

Both Torie and Lara have received training from Department of Agriculture and Fisheries Principal Veterinarian Lawrence Gavey on how to collect Bovine Johne’s Disease (BJD) samples for testing. They aim to collect from up to 16 farms a week and have already got a good start on the Darling Downs.

There will be time for members to ask questions about JD and the testing process while the Torie or Lara are on the farm, but the aim is to minimise disruption to the daily routine of the farm and the herd.

To ensure that testing can be done as efficiently and economically as possible, testing is being coordinated by geographic regions. Testing is currently taking place in and around the Darling Downs. Members from all regions are encouraged to contact the office on 3236 2955 as soon as possible to book their farm in for testing.

There will be limited opportunities for the QDO officers to return to regions if members wait to book.

Eric Danzi – QDO Executive Officer

2019 another year of challenges for dairy industry.

2019 shapes up as another challenging year for dairy farmers and the dairy industry. As has been the case for the past eight years, retail pricing and the impact on dairy farmer and processor incomes is still by far the biggest challenge to overcome. Other key issues include the Australian dairy industry plan and biosecurity.
After many years of no change re retail milk prices, finally in 2018 some movement occurred largely as a result of a concerted campaign by QDO. This has led to an increase in prices received by Queensland dairy farmers. For some this increase was very short lived while for others it will lead to an increase in price of around 5 cents a litre for almost a year. 

The challenge in 2019 is to turn these temporary increases into a permanent long-term solution. This needs to occur for all dairy products, across all of Australia and lead to more sustainable prices for both dairy farmers and processors. For this outcome to be achieved we need to have a united industry and run a concerted campaign across Australia.

The dairy industry will develop a plan for the entire Australian dairy industry in 2019. It is very important that this process leads to a small number of clear priorities to help farmers significantly increase profits and manage risk. In addition, there needs to targets set, clear plans to achieve targets and responsibility with resources given to organisations best able to achieve these targets. We need to ensure that significant outcomes for farmers are achieved given the significant investment made by farmers in industry organisations.

In the first half of 2019, QDO will undertake free Johnes disease testing for QDO members. This needs to be undertaken by June 2019. It follows the considerable effort made by QDO, with the assistance of the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, in providing education workshops on Johnes disease and helping farmers develop farm biosecurity plans

Eric Danzi - Executive Officer

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