The WA cattle industry is facing another crippling blow after tests confirmed the presence of a wasting disease that has the potential to shut down major export markets.
Five Kimberley stations are subject to livestock movement restrictions as tests continue to determine the extent of Bovine Johne's Disease infections, but there has been at least one confirmed case.
The industry is organising a crisis meeting in Broome next week to discuss a BJD management strategy with a mass cull of suspect cattle an option if the disease is found to have spread to herds.
The Department of Agriculture and Food WA is already culling hundreds of bulls traced to WA from an infected herd in Queensland.
More than 100 of the 476 suspect bulls which entered WA in the past 12 years have been slaughtered for testing and station-owners are continuing their efforts to track down the rest.
The worst fears of the Kimberley cattle industry, which is desperate to protect WA's status as the only BJD-free State in Australia, were confirmed when BJD was found in at least one of the bulls.
DAFWA chief veterinary officer Peter Morcombe confirmed yesterday that an initial test on one bull was positive. "Testing is still under way on this property to determine if the disease has spread to other animals," Dr Morcombe said.
The Federal Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry imposed export restrictions on the Kimberley stations linked to the suspect bulls to protect key markets, chiefly Indonesia, which is forecast to import 267,000 of the 550,000 head of cattle shipped from Australia this year.
BJD infection causes a thickening of the gut lining which reduces the animal's ability to absorb food and water, and results in diarrhoea and weight loss. Pastoralists and Graziers Association president Rob Gillam said: "A lot of Kimberley cattlemen are very worried about the ramifications. One positive is that typically it is spread from mother to calf in the first few weeks of life and not by bulls."
Almost 100 ducks and chickens on two farms outside of Perth have been slaughtered as a precaution after DAFWA discovered a case of avian influenza in a duck.The strain of influenza was not the highly pathogenic H5N1 virus that affected poultry and humans in much of Asia, DAFWA livestock biosecurity director Michelle Rodan said.
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