Beefing up biosecurity with Johne’s Beef Assurance Score (J-BAS)

Our Regional Landcare Facilitator Programme recently ran an emergency meeting on the new Johne’s Beef Assurance Score (J-BAS) system for more than 50 South West stakeholders.

Johne’s Disease is an incurable bacterial infection that may cause serious wasting and chronic diarrhoea in cattle and also affects other ruminants in Australia.  There is only three known outbreaks of Bovine Johne’s Disease (BJD) in WA from cattle imported from other states, the most recent in the Kimberleys in 2012.  These outbreaks have since tested free on Johne’s. Animal Health Australia (AHA) coordinates the management of BJD nationally for Cattle Council Australia.

J-BAS is a voluntary system that quantifies the risk of Johne’s Disease occurring on a beef cattle property, and is likely to be used by buyers of breeding cattle in the future.  The higher the J-BAS score, the lower the risk.

When J-BAS was introduced on 1 July 2016, all beef herds on Western Australian properties without a history of Ovine (sheep) Johne’s Disease received the highest J-BAS assurance level of 8.  To maintain a J-BAS score of 8, producers now need to develop a bio-security plan, have it reviewed and signed by a vet, and then follow animal testing requirements.  This comes at an expense, so the best alternative is to drop to J-BAS 6, which does not require veterinary oversight.  A bio-security plan is still required for J-BAS 6.  Initially, the deadline for a bio security plan, with or without veterinarian oversite, was June 30 2017.  If producers missed this deadline, they would drop to a J-BAS score of zero, potentially making them unattractive to buyers.

On 2 June the Regional Landcare Facilitator spoke to Scott River beef producer Barbara Dunnet who said that despite the June 30 deadline looming, most beef producers were in the dark about J-BAS.  An event was quickly organised and held in Nannup on June 15, featuring DAFWA vet Kevin Hepworth and Livestock Biosecurity Network’s Frances Gartrell.  Despite short notice, the event attracted 37 attendees.

The event was followed by a video conference at the Nannup CRC (Community Resource Centre) which was shown live at three other CRCs, enabling an additional 19 stakeholders to listen and ask questions.

Feedback from 27 evaluation forms completed showed that the events reached at least 34 farming entities covering a combined area of 15,073 hectares with 12,530 cattle.  Attendees at the face to face meeting in Nannup gave the event a mean score of 8 out of ten. While there was frustration with the roll-out of the J-BAS system, attendees were generally grateful for a well presented and informative morning.

Since these events, the June 30 deadline has been extended to 1 October. Click here for more information.

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