THE future of the Ovine Johnes Disease Market Assurance Program is under a cloud after a South Australia stud in the program recorded a ewe test positive to the wasting disease.
It was the first MAP-accredited stud to break down in SA in the 14-year history of the national program.
The South East Merino stud was undertaking a routine biennial pooled faecal testing when the disease was found in late July.
The property is now under quarantine and has had to cancel its ram sales indefinitely, with financial losses close to one-third of its annual income.
The stud, which has been a member of the national MAP since the the program's inception, has introduced only four rams - all from MN3 studs - during this period, along with semen sires.
A large proportion of the State's sheep studs - 139 - are members of the MAP, but many are worried that they may end-up in the same predicament.
The MAP will be reviewed in the next six months but many studs are also considering vaccination to safeguard themselves from a similar positive test.
Animal Health Australia National Johnes Disease technical adviser Evan Sergeant said infected sheep showed up in studs involved in the MAP program from "time to time".
"It is not claiming that the stud is definitely free of OJD but that the flock has a greatly reduced risk of having OJD compared to flocks not in the Sheep MAP," he said.
"They have done the testing, bought from other studs also with low risk, and had biosecurity to do their best to keep it out.
"It is a very slow-moving disease and particularly in mixed enterprises which are well managed it can take a long time to build up.
"That is why MAP flocks can have two or three tests or more before it is picked up."
Dr Sergeant maintained the MAP program - which has 431 participating flocks nationally - was a creditable way for commercial producers to minimise the risk of introducing the disease to their flocks, from bought-in rams and ewes.
Elements of the program which would be reviewed included the ability for vaccinated flocks to be able to maintain their MN1, MN2 or MN3 status without regular testing. For flocks without the disease, it was well worth spending some money to keep it out.
"For farmers who are seeing their sheep die in large numbers there is a real sense of helplessness - some have felt inadequate as a farmer, and vaccination costs are $2.50 or more a lamb which is still a significant cost," he said.
Meat & Livestock Australia is funding a project on the real costs of infected sheep which do not make market specifications for producers and processors.
*Full report in Stock Journal, September 27 issue, 2012.
Back to News Headlines