THE start date for changes to the national Ovine Johnes Disease management plan that have caused so much angst in the sheep industry has been delayed six months.
But Frank Tobin – who is heading up the industry committee formed out of last month’s meeting hosted by Australian Wool Innovation – says the announcement only adds to growers’ confusion about what they should do about the changes.
The decision was made at a phone hook-up of WoolProducers Australia and Sheepmeat Council of Australia representatives last week and will see a transition period to the new rules extended until July 1, 2013.
In a joint statement released on Monday, the two lobby groups said the extension reflected recent industry concern about the new changes.
“There have been many issues raised over the past weeks and a high level of concern about the proposed program. These need to be considered, particularly the lack of recognition for vaccinates, and WPA and SCA are considering how these might be addressed,” it said.
“The six-month extension provides time for these concerns to be considered. Both councils are committed to implementing a practical and technically sound plan to reduce the spread of OJD.
“Both WPA and SCA have always and continue to strongly support the use of vaccination as a management tool in the control of OJD.”
The statement concludes by telling producers who have prepared for the January 1 start date that they can implement their individual biosecurity plan at any stage.
Mr Tobin said this made it sound like the two lobby groups were only delaying the start date and not allowing enough time for growers’ concerns to be investigated in full.
He said it only added to growers’ confusion because they could prepare for the changes to be implemented on July 1, 2013, and have another amendment to the plan that would mean all that effort was for nothing.
He said growers needed to make decisions now on whether it was worthwhile vaccinating spring-drop lambs and whether they would be recognised under the program – a decision that could cost thousands of dollars.
The Victorian Farmers Federation is claiming the delay as a win in the first stage of a battle to defer and amend the proposed changes.
VFF Livestock president Ian Feldtmann said the decision was great news for sheep producers and gave the industry time to come to a “more sensible solution”.
“I’d like to thank the 556 sheep producers who signed our petition opposing the new rules and all those who attended our OJD forums. As they say it’s a victory for common sense,” he said. “We also appreciate Victorian Agriculture Minister Peter Walsh’s support.”
WoolProducers and SCA reiterated that in developing the changes there was extensive public consultation indicating strong support for a national plan; the industry worked with government and sought independent technical advice; and a key concern was shedding could still occur in infected vaccinated animals.