New management approach for endemic sheep diseases

The management of endemic sheep diseases, Ovine Johne’s disease and footrot, is set to change under new programs introduced today and being rolled out over the coming months.


The changes include the establishment of a new South Australian Ovine Johne’s Disease Management Program and modifications to the South Australian Footrot Management Program.

Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development Tim Whetstone, said the new endemic sheep disease management programs have been developed by Primary Industries and Regions SA (PIRSA) in close liaison with the South Australian Sheep Advisory Group (SASAG) and Livestock SA and are in alignment with the newly announced national OJD management arrangements.

“The new management models for OJD and footrot in South Australia will encourage safe trading practices to minimise disease spread, reflecting the changing approach to animal disease management not only in South Australia but across Australia,” said Minister Whetstone.

“Flocks that have been placed under quarantine for OJD will soon be released, subject to risk assessment, and responsible trading practices.

“The aim of the changes is to allow producers to manage disease in line with their individual business priorities with less red tape burden.

“Producers will need to have a greater awareness of how they are trading in the marketplace and ask questions about the background of stock when making risk-based purchase decisions.”

SASAG Chair Ian Rowett said changes over the past 12 months to surveillance programs for Johne’s disease in sheep by interstate and South Australian abattoirs from a compulsory to a voluntary system prompted a review of the programs.

“It is not possible to have a regulated program with a voluntary surveillance system,” said Mr Rowett.

“South Australia has been very successful over the years with its regulated program with only 86 properties currently in quarantine out of 7,000 active property identification codes. We hope this rate of success continues with the new system.

“It is also important that these changes help in removing the unnecessary stigma that has been associated for both Johne’s disease and footrot which will need to be declared on their National Vendor Declarations and National Sheep Health Declarations.

“The change to now treat footrot as one disease is also very important and reflects the latest research that places both benign and virulent strains as part of the same disease spectrum.”

Livestock SA President Joe Keynes, said that Livestock SA is working with PIRSA to ensure the new arrangements support industry.

“We are pleased that there will be strong alignment with the new national arrangements,” said Mr Keynes.

“Biosecurity is everyone’s responsibility and with these new programs producers will need to take on a greater responsibility for disease management and farm biosecurity.

“The good news is that these changes to the endemic disease programs align well with the forthcoming One Biosecurity program which will provide a valuable tool to assist producers on managing both Johne’s disease and footrot into the future.

“As the changes start to roll out this month, producers need to consider how they adapt their on-farm biosecurity and disease management strategies in line with these new state and national arrangements.”

Changes under the new South Australian Ovine Johne’s Disease Management Program include:

  • Producers able to trade sheep from properties known to be infected with Johne’s Disease;
  • Change in the Johnes’s Disease status from ‘notifiable’ to ‘notifiable-report only’. Any suspicion of Johne’s disease will still need to be reported to Biosecurity SA but automatic movement restrictions will no longer be applied to affected properties;
  • Detections of Johne’s disease to occur through producer requested abattoir monitoring or on-farm testing; and
  • The Gudair vaccine subsidy will no longer be available to producers. Those in high risk areas and high risk businesses are being encouraged to commence their own vaccination program.

While producers can now bring vaccinated sheep into South Australia from interstate as part of the new Ovine Johne’s Disease Management Program, interstate movement restrictions will remain in place until further industry consultation is undertaken in coming months.

The modified South Australian Footrot Management Program reflects a change in focus with footrot no longer regarded as two different diseases but rather one disease which ranges in severity from virulent to benign.

It is also aimed at encouraging producers to proactively undertake footrot inspections, testing and effective management programs for all degrees of footrot.

While movement restrictions remain in place for very virulent strains of the bacteria, there will be increased trade opportunities for lower virulence strains of the disease provided the property status is declared on the National Sheep Health Declaration.

To assist producers in making risk based decisions, PIRSA in association with SASAG and Livestock SA will be providing a range of education and awareness material and opportunities for producers.

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