Bulls killed after deadly disease alert

Brad ThompsonThe West Australian

Kimberley pastoralists face years of vigilance against a killer cattle disease after the latest round of tests that have resulted in 177 bulls slaughtered.

Test results released yesterday showed a bull shedding bovine johne's disease bacteria had been detected on one station and revealed evidence of infection in an animal on another property.

The Department of Agriculture and Food WA and cattle industry leaders remained confident that WA would maintain its BJD-free status through a strict testing regime, movement restrictions and tougher safeguards on cattle from Queensland entering the State.

Key export markets, including Indonesia, are BJD sensitive. They accept cattle only from States which have BJD, a wasting disease which can cause death, under strict conditions.

More bulls will be culled as DAFWA officers continue to track down about 450 animals traced to five Kimberley stations from an infected property in Queensland. The bulls entered WA over a 10-year period and some will already have been processed, exported or died of natural attrition.

DAFWA livestock biosecurity director Michelle Rodan said testing would continue on five Kimberley stations subject to movement restrictions for several years.

"One bull, although not displaying clinical signs, has been confirmed as shedding BJD bacteria, meaning there has been a risk of transmission to other cattle," Dr Rodan said.

The station, which has not been named, is destocking about 1000 cattle which had contact with the bull.

DAFWA is working with affected producers to minimise the impact of the movement restrictions. Movement of low-risk cattle off restricted properties is allowed under permit.

WA Beef Council chairman Tony Hiscock said the industry was positive about keeping its BJD-free status based on the test results and the safeguards in place.

Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails