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Australian Wool Innovation Limited
Emily King
Manager, Woolgrower Education & Capacity Building
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OJD management changes coming

Posted by Bestprac on Jul 04 2012

Australia’s Ovine Johne’s Disease (OJD) Management Plan finishes at the end of this year. An extensive review of the plan has been undertaken which identified improvements to assist producers to control and prevent OJD.

The revised arrangements give sheep producers’ greater flexibility to manage their OJD risk. Producers will now gain credit for what they are actively doing to control and prevent the disease.

Ovine Johne’s disease is a silent but costly disease. Sheep may look healthy but shed high numbers of bacteria and spread the infection before the disease becomes apparent. In infected flocks, OJD has a serious welfare and financial impact as it affects growth and production. Infected sheep can waste away and die.

Program changes

From 1 January 2013 the national program will no longer use the existing High, Medium and Low Prevalence Areas. Initially, all areas will default to Control Areas. Some regions will be able to become a Protected Area by demonstrating that their OJD prevalence is low, and that action is being taken to effectively control the disease and prevent it from entering their region.

The new arrangements will build on and recognise the achievements of areas that have successfully controlled the disease. Producers currently in a Low Prevalence Area, who manage their OJD risk, are well placed to attain protected status under the revised arrangements. Those in SheepMAP will not be affected.

Producers in Medium and High Prevalence Areas will be required to actively manage their disease risk to benefit from the new program. A revision of the Sheep Health Statement and ABC Scheme is being undertaken and any changes will be incorporated into the revised plan.

About Control Areas

A Control Area is one where the disease is well established or where there is no regional approach to preventing OJD. Initially, all regions will be Control Areas. Some regions will be able to gain Protected Area status by demonstrating that their OJD prevalence is low, and that action is being taken to effectively control the disease and prevent it from entering their area.

Sheep producers in Control Areas will need to manage their own risk, and there are a number of tools available to help. These include vaccination, flock testing, SheepMAP, grazing management and biosecurity measures such as using Sheep Health Statements when trading.

About Protected Areas

A Protected Area is an area where the disease is not known to occur, or is rare, and a regional biosecurity plan is in place to prevent, detect and control the disease. A region will need to be able to demonstrate that it has a low level of OJD and have a regional or group biosecurity plan in place that outlines the actions necessary to maintain that.

A regional/group biosecurity plan documents the agreed actions by farmers in a region to get and maintain protected status and maximise their commercial advantage. It will outline measures like conditions on sheep movements into the area, vaccination policy and response to disease detection. Guidelines for developing and submitting a plan will be available shortly.

Trading or moving sheep always carries an OJD risk and, therefore, you should always use a Sheep Health Statement to obtain the best information available. The risk of disease spread is greater when moving animals from a Control Area to a Protected Area so there will be minimum entry requirements set.

Producers should also be aware that sheep being sourced from regions where the disease is actively spreading can have a greater chance of carrying the disease than their ABC score indicates. See for further program details as they become available.

Handy hints

All producers should:

  • purchase sheep with a Sheep Health Statement identifying them as high assurance (low risk)
  • maintain good on-farm biosecurity practices (see for biosecurity tips)
  • provide a Sheep Health Statement when selling sheep not for slaughter
  • consider the benefits of vaccination
  • start liaising with fellow producers, consultants, vets, and the state departments on preparing a Regional/Group Biosecurity Plan
  • visit for further information as it becomes available.

Last changed: Jul 05 2012



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