Opinions are divided on South Australia’s approach to ovine johnes disease.
More than $1 million a year is being spent from the SA Sheep Industry Fund on PIRSA’s OJD program, funding testing and subsidising vaccine for infected and neighbouring flocks.
But some in the industry are questioning whether the producer money could be better spent on other projects and whether South Australia should fall in line with other states.
A recent poll conducted by Stock Journal showed 60.87 per cent of respondents favoured managing the disease through vaccination and a “buyer beware” approach, compared with 39.13pc who wanted regulatory control to continue.
Parndana stud sheep and prime lamb producer Andrew Heinrich favours SA’s control program remaining in place but acknowledges there is no doubt deregulation will eventually occur.
“We should be in no hurry to deregulate after all the work SA has done, especially when there are farmers who have not embraced vaccination,” he said.
“It is a small cost for a lifetime of protection.”
Mr Heinrich said OJD was still an unknown disease and any future increases in prevalence could threaten live export trade.
He said vaccination was the way to go for at-risk flocks and those in high rainfall environments.
Ella Matta has been protecting its flock with Gudair vaccine since 1999-2000 with its entire flock of 7000 sheep at least third-generation vaccinates.
But the Heinrichs have gone further for themselves and their clients with a Monitored Negative 3 status, the highest in the OJD market assurance program, and strict biosecurity.
They only introduce outside genetics through artificial insemination and have built very strong boundary fences.
Mr Heinrich says 20 years on from the first case being detected on Kangaroo Island, it is well on top of the disease, with very few infected flocks.
“It will be interesting to see how KI producers respond but they may choose, if SA did deregulate, to break with the mainland and maintain a strict policy of its own,” he said.
Elders branch manager Tom Dennis said producers should be vaccinating their flocks.
“As an agent that deals with people on both sides of the border, deregulation of OJD is the way to go with a buyer beware approach,” he said.
“Rather than the large amount of money spent on regulation, it could be spread further subsidising the vaccine, or if more people start vaccinating the cost will go down anyway.”
“In 2018, I am telling my (breeder) clients they should be vaccinating if they are not,” he said.
Submissions to the national OJD review close on March 12.
For more details visit animalhealthaustralia.com.au/ojd-review/