Mackay couple embroiled in BJD case over alleged fake trace forward cow

Mackay couple break their silence over BJD case involving an alleged fake trace forward cow


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A Mackay couple say their quarantine over BJD trace forward animals should have been lifted after 10 days but instead it continued for two and a half years based on a cow who they allege never existed.

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Nita and Chris Petersen, Mackay, became embroiled in a Johne's case after purchasing Brangus cows and a bull which later turned out to be trace forward animals.

Nita and Chris Petersen, Mackay, became embroiled in a Johne's case after purchasing Brangus cows and a bull which later turned out to be trace forward animals.

A MACKAY couple, who were quarantined for two and a half years with suspected bovine Johne’s disease over a missing trace forward cow they allege never existed, say better testing is needed to control the disease, rather than biosecurity plans.

More than five years after their case began, Chris and Nita Petersen are now speaking out after being left without a property and cattle.

In 2011, the couple were running a small cattle property outside Mackay when they purchased a Brangus bull and 15 cows from a producer who was the second owner of the cattle.

They later sold the females but retained the bull. However, a cow from the original property of the purchased cattle tested positive to BJD and in 2012 the Petersens were quarantined.

While their trace forward bull tested negative to blood, faecal and culture tests, quarantine was placed on their property for a further two and a half years.

This was due to the potential co-grazing of eight cows and 77 calves with two high risk trace forward cows, one whom died of unknown causes after the Petersen’s sold her and had left the property before the calves were born, and another that they say never existed. 

A RTI document shows the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries outlining there were 16 trace forward Brangus cows on the couple’s property but in an earlier table of cattle movements, only a group of 10 cows and then another five were moved. 

While there was also a transfer of a group of six cows from the infected property, Mr Petersen said they remained with the second owner.

“It is also mentioned in the RTI by DAF that "this cow’s existence could not be confirmed by NILS tags or waybills",” he said.

“Our mustering records also confirm this.”

Mr Petersen claims DAF conducted a large number of tests on their animals because “it looks better on paper” before they eventually got a false positive test from a cow who returned a negative culture when slaughtered.

“Because we were 12 months ahead of the Rockhampton outbreak and there was only four in this area, they saw it as manageable,” he said.

“I honestly believe (DAF) thought they were proving a point to AgForce and the industry that they could eradicate the disease.”

During the time of the outbreak, Johne’s disease in cattle was managed under the Stock Act 1915 and a quarantine was imposed until the infection or suspicion was resolved. Those quarantine restrictions no longer exists.

Emails between vets and DAF staff during December 2012 and listed in the RTI questioned the “hybrid approach” taken on the Petersens. 

Mr Petersen said they knew of at least one property that had a trace forward bull and as soon as it was slaughtered, their quarantine was released.

“If our herd was all Johnes (it would be different) but I’m refusing to believe it if it was based on a cow that never existed,” he said.

A Biosecurity Queensland spokesperson declined to comment on the Petersen’s case due to privacy restrictions.

However, the spokesperson said the new nationally agreed industry framework meant laboratory testing for Johne’s disease was focused at the herd level rather than individual animals.

“The testing protocols are continuously improved as new scientific understandings and technologies become available, such as introduction of the HT-J faecal PCR test in early 2013,” the spokesperson said. 

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