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New addition to OJD Biosecurity Area

By Linda Searle, District Veterinarian

The Riverina Sheep Biosecurity Area has been extended to include the area west of the Barham- Moulamein Road, from Barham up to Moulamein and out to Tooleybuc (see map below). This follows a unanimous vote by a well attended meeting of sheep farmers on 18 August 2014.

With the assistance of local stock agents and a concerted effort by Murray Local Land Services Biosecurity & Livestock Health team, around 80 owners and managers of sheep came along hear the benefits and procedures for joining the Riverina Sheep Biosecurity Group (SBG).

Sheep Biosecurity Areas or Groups (SBG) are a voluntary management tool which allows sheep producers to gauge the risk of bringing infection into a flock when buying in stock. SBG's were mainly set up to address Ovine Johnes Disease but they also help manage the risk of footrot and Brucellosis infection.

SBG have replaced the old points system, so now the country is divided into areas 'in' or 'out' of a SBG. Producers in a SBG are classed as low risk for having disease. This is firstly because they are from historically low prevalence areas for OJD; and secondly because the producers have agreed not to buy-in high risk stock.

Producers in a SBG have agreed they will only buy sheep sourced from:

  1. Another SBG – anywhere  in South Australia or Queensland, most of the western part of NSW and the Victorian Mallee;
  2. Flocks in a sheep Market Assurance Program (MAP) program – a private biosecurity area which only includes one farm. It is a way for stud breeders or other concerned producers to become classed as low risk without every property in the area being classed as low risk. This involves testing to prove that there is no evidence of disease;
  3. Cross bred lambs which have not cut their first teeth and will be slaughtered before they do. Because the disease has a long incubation period, sheep will not shed the OJD bacteria in their faeces until they are approximately two years old. This makes terminal lambs classed low risk for spreading infection;
  4. Flocks which have been tested negative for OJD with either a PFC 350 or Abattoir 500 test in the last 2 years;
  5. Sheep producers in a SBG must also obtain a Sheep Health Statement when buying in any sheep which states that the sheep are free from virulent footrot and that any rams are from a Ovine Brucellosis (OB) accredited free flock or tested negative for OB in the last 30 days.

By following these guidelines with careful purchase of sheep, everyone can help lower the risk of Ovine Johnes disease being transferred onto properties with no previous history of the disease.

Murray Local Land Services Livestock Health team will conduct audits to ensure compliance with the SBG criteria. If producers breach the guidelines the biosecurity area will be disbanded and the restrictions on who can buy sheep from the region will again apply.

Producers in the Riverina Biosecurity area will display a green sticker with 'Riverina Biosecurity Area' printed on them when selling sheep in the sale yards. This opens the market of people who can buy these sheep to include producers in a RBG as well as those out of a RBG who want to buy low risk sheep for their flock.

More Information: If you see unusual disease symptoms in your stock, or want to know more about Sheep Biosecurity Areas, please call the Veterinarians or Biosecurity Officers, Murray LLS Deniliquin office on 03 5881 9900 or Albury 02 6051 2200.

Riverina Sheep Biosecurity Zone