A cluster of Ovine Johne's Disease cases in the Mid North is a timely reminder of the need for producers to be vigilant when buying sheep, especially those from interstate.
Stock Journal understands PIRSA has been working with six properties near Balaklava and Watervale, after a SA agent bought nearly 4000 scanned in-lamb ewes from WA for these clients.
One of the new owners noticed ill-thrift in some of the sheep, which have since tested positive to the disease.
It comes a year after the management of OJD in SA moved from a government regulated system to 'buyer beware' approach, after the national OJD program was abolished and the mandatory abattoir surveillance for the disease in SA ceased.
Infected flocks are no longer placed under quarantine, although OJD remains a notifiable disease in SA.
PIRSA has confirmed it is working with 96 infected flocks across SA, six of which are in the Mid North.
Ten new flocks have been recorded in the 2019-20 financial year, but PIRSA concedes without routine testing the "true number" of infected flocks is unknown.
A PIRSA spokesperson said good farm biosecurity should play a central role in any buying decisions and producers should be checking the mandatory National Vendor Declaration and National Sheep Health Declarations carefully of any sheep they intend to bring in.
"As producers may not know they are infected and this disease may be difficult to detect at low levels, it is advised that producers ask for evidence that OJD does not occur on the property, what testing or abattoir surveillance has been been undertaken, what biosecurity practices prevent entry and for how many years has this been in place," the spokesperson said.
Merino SA president Nick Wadlow says the Mid North situation "is of great concern to the sheep industry in this state", especially to its members who have upheld high biosecurity requirements at shows and multi-vendor sales across the state.
Many have been long-term participants in the national OJD Market Assurance Program.
Mr Wadlow is calling for more education for agents and producers about minimising risk and the significant financial losses that can be incurred from OJD.
"Although the correct documentation is a requirement when purchasing livestock, it does not give 100 per cent guarantee that livestock are disease free," he said.
"Producers and livestock agents need to undertake their own due diligence when purchasing stock from an unknown status flock - especially interstate sheep.
"If it has not been previously detected in an area such as the Mid North, we should be putting in an even greater effort to maintaining that status."
Merino SA also questions the effectiveness of PIRSA's One Biosecurity program due to its low uptake and not being nationally recognised.
It has been promoted as a valuable tool for producers to assess the health status of livestock they are looking to buy, but in the nearly two years since the program was launched only 492 sheep producers have signed up.
This represents a fraction of the estimated 7000 SA properties registered as running livestock.
"Historically voluntary quality assurance programs without financial incentive never gain traction and don't survive," he said.
Mr Wadlow sees One Biosecurity as "another layer of unnecessary documentation" as it does not "dovetail" into the MAP or national Ovine Brucellosis programs which many of its members are part of.
We can no longer expect a government, which is busy with hospitals and schools, to provide the level of hand-holding around disease management that it has done in the past.
Livestock SA chief executive officer Andrew Curtis supports SA producers having the ability to buy from flocks across Australia for rebuilding numbers and genetic improvement, but he says it must be done "with their eyes open".
He says industry must take responsibility for the role once undertaken by the state government.
"We can no longer expect a government, which is busy with hospitals and schools, to provide the level of hand-holding around disease management that it has done in the past," he said.
"As an industry, we need to get it right."
Livestock SA has just commenced a biosecurity extension program with PIRSA and Animal Health Australia, which has seen two biosecurity officers employed and Mr Curtis said help was also available through private vets.
"Just as some people may go to an accountant to do their tax or also use them to help manage their accounts, you can go to a vet if you have a sick animal or also have a vet to help with your biosecurity management," he said.
Mr Curtis said One Biosecurity was valuable, but to be successful, it needed higher producer participation and further enhancements.
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