Northern NSW beef producer and Lismore Saleyards director Ron Chittick says beef producers buying dairy or dairy cross cattle in NSW must minimise the risk of introducing bovine Johne’s disease (BJD) to their herd by checking the Dairy Assurance Score with their agent or at the saleyard.

“Cattle buyers can now make purchasing decisions based on a Score that gives assurance about the risk of BJD in the herd,” Mr Chittick said. 

“New rules which came into effect on March 31 allow producers to gauge the risk of BJD when buying cattle.

“All cattle originating from dairy holdings will have the Dairy BJD Assurance Score number displayed at the saleyard and the auctioneer will announce the Score prior to selling the cattle.”

NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) is currently running a communication campaign featuring key BJD messages on posters and brochures which have been distributed to all saleyards in the State.

“Next time you go to the cattle sale take the time to read the poster as it explains the Score and the changes to look out for,” Mr Chittick said.

Quarantine on current dairy herds was lifted on March 31 and dairy producers selling or moving cattle (that are not being sold directly for slaughter) are now required to provide a Dairy BJD Assurance Score declaration form to the buyers of their cattle.

The Dairy BJD Assurance Score declaration form must be available for inspection prior to the sale and provided to the purchasers after the sale. 

Mr Chittick, a NSW BJD extension steering committee member, says buyers can compare the score (from zero to 10) of dairy herds and buy only from those with the same or a higher score than their own.

“For beef producers the message is – if you are buying dairy cattle, buy those with a score of seven or higher to reduce the risk of bringing BJD onto your property,” Mr Chittick says. 

“The national cattle industry program, Beef Only, is a low-cost way to reduce risk and maximise market options and to maintain this status, introduced dairy cattle must be from CattleMAP herds which have a dairy score of eight or higher.”

Cattle from dairy holdings with a Dairy BJD Assurance Score of less than seven will be held in a segregated area of the saleyard.

Cattle from dairy holdings with BJD infected herds will be held in the area of the saleyard reserved for cattle with a Dairy BJD Assurance Score of less than seven but will be available for open sale. It will be up to purchasers to check the Dairy BJD Assurance Score to avoid buying high-risk cattle.

Cattle from beef holdings with BJD infected herds will continue to only be sold through ‘slaughter only’ sections of the saleyard. They are not available for open sale.

“From now on people should start asking questions and stock agents will be advising clients on where to seek information on the Dairy BJD Assurance Score,” Mr Chittick says. 

“Beef producers may also contact their local Rural Lands Protection Board or NSW Department of Primary Industries offices for further information.” 

Cattle movements from dairy herds to beef herds are monitored by the National Livestock Identification System (NLIS) and beef producers who purchase dairy cattle with a score of six or below, and whose herds become infected with BJD, are not eligible for the Financial and Non-Financial Assistance Package for infected beef herds. 

BJD is more common in dairy and dairy cross herds than in pure beef herds. CattleMAP herds — MN1, MN2 and MN3 — have the highest Dairy Score (8, 9 and 10) and are the lowest risk.

“It’s a matter of being vigilant and always knowing the Score,” Mr Chittick adds. 

“Ask about the BJD status before buying cattle – whether trade cattle, replacements or bulls.”

For more information see www.dpi.nsw.gov.au or contact your local Rural Lands Protection Board.