Ovine Brucellosis (OB) remains a significant disease in Australia's sheep flock - unnecessarily so.
In the lead up to spring ram purchasing, commercial sheep producers are being urged to move one requirement for potential sires to the top of the list. That they be OB-free.
Each state in Australia operates OB-free accreditation programs for stud flocks and MLA’s Program Manager Animal Health and Welfare, Dr Jim Rothwell, said while the prevalence of OB in Australia is much less than in countries without regulatory or voluntary control measures, there is room for improvement.
West Australian stud SAMM and Border Leicester breeder, Jeff Murray, who is also a councillor on the Sheepmeat Council of Australia (SCA), encouraged commercial producers to consider the impact of investing in rams from non-accredited studs.
“If you put those rams straight out in the paddock, you may well be infecting your flock with a disease which costs money and is hard to get rid of,” he said, adding in Western Australia, “OB-free status is a requirement for all meat breeds entered in shows or sales, but not for Merinos.
“Vigilance is essential. If you take the risk of buying rams from non-accredited studs then keep your young rams separate from your old rams until you are certain they are free from OB,” Jeff said.
“It’s easier just to buy from an accredited stud in the first place, but you still need to be aware of the risk of neighbour’s sheep getting in with yours and that elements of the industry don’t believe it to be the problem it is.
“If you buy rams in tip top health then your dollar is going to go further and the return on your investment is greater.”
Queensland Poll Merino stud operator and councillor on SCA, Mark Murphy, said industry groups were “right in this space at the moment”, working to reduce the impact of OB on Australian flocks.
He applauded the simplifying of what is currently a state-by-state approach to OB accreditation with the addition of a question regarding OB status on Sheep Health Statements.
“Good biosecurity practice puts us on the front foot,” Mark said. “If you are buying sheep from a source which doesn’t have OB accreditation, ask why not?”
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