A North Coast beef property has been placed in quarantine and two others are under investigation after their owners recently purchased cattle from a Lismore-district dairy herd infected with bovine Johnes disease (BJD).

“This is a major warning for all beef producers buying dairy cattle in NSW — they need to understand the risks of bringing BJD onto their farm if they buy low Dairy Score dairy cattle,” said Sally Spence, NSW Department of Primary Industries Technical Specialist Farm Product Integrity.

“Bovine Johne’s disease (BJD) is a chronic disease of cattle which has no cure. It can be introduced when you buy cattle.

“New BJD regulations require the sellers of dairy cattle to provide a Dairy BJD Assurance Score for their cattle at sale, and this was done at the Lismore sale.

“However, stockowners buying dairy cattle now have a greater individual responsibility to make sure they understand the Dairy Score and use it to avoid bringing the disease onto their farm.

“Some buyers at the Lismore-district dairy sale have ignored or were unaware of this advice and now face the prospect of being in quarantine for BJD — a costly and restrictive imposition.”

Ms Spence said despite the significant publicity given to the BJD changes, it seems some NSW beef producers may not be aware of what it means to them.

“If you are buying dairy cattle anywhere in NSW, even just one house cow, or a poddy calf for the kids, you must ask about the BJD status of the stock before you make the purchase,” she said.

“Sellers of dairy cattle are required to provide a Dairy BJD Assurance Score with all stock. 

“The score is scaled 1 to 10 with one being very high risk and 10 being low risk.”

NSW Department of Primary Industries recommends beef producers who are not in the Beef MAP to only buy dairy cattle with a Dairy Score of  7 or above.

“Even better, to protect future marketing options, beef producers are advised to maintain a Beef Only status for their herds by either avoiding buying dairy cattle or only buying dairy cattle from herds enrolled in CattleMAP, that is with a Dairy BJD Assurance Score of 8 or above,” Ms Spence said.

“It is also very important to be aware that if you buy from dairy herds with a Dairy Score of 6 or less, you run the risk of having your herd and property quarantined.”

In summary, the department says the important points if you are buying dairy cattle are:

Ask for the Dairy BJD Assurance Score

Only buy Dairy Score 7 or above

If you are Beef Only or want to sell cattle to Queensland, only buy 8 or above

You may be quarantined if you buy from Dairy Score 6 or below

No assistance package is available to herds quarantined after buying from  Dairy Score 6 or below herds.