Japan bans Australian cattle imports


Japan has temporarily suspended live cattle imports from Australia after detecting disease in some recently imported animals.

The ban came after a shipment of 300 Holstein breeding heifers air-freighted from Melbourne last week allegedly tested positive to bovine Johne's disease (BJD) while in quarantine in Japan.

However, the cattle tested negative to the disease before they left Australia.

The federal agriculture department said in a statement it was investigating to confirm that cattle were prepared according to the importing country requirements.

"The department is working closely with the Japanese authorities on this issue," it said in a statement.

The department said it was aware Japanese authorities had announced they would "temporarily stop accepting feeder and breeder cattle from Australia in response to a number of cattle testing positive for Johne's disease in post-arrival quarantine".

Under Australian protocols, heifers must be tested twice for the disease before they can be approved for export to Japan.

Japan is Australia's ninth largest destination for live cattle, exporting just over 10,000 head worth $14.6 million in 2014-15. Most are high value Wagyu steers.

Indonesia is the largest destination, with exports worth more than $1 billion.

BJD is an incurable bacterial infection that causes wasting in infected animals, which can eventually starve to death.

The disease exists in many countries including Australia, though large parts of Australia and most beef cattle herds are regarded as BJD-free.