Investigation into cattle tick ‘infestation’
THREE adjoining properties in the Burncluith area, north of Chinchilla, are being inspected following an “infestation” of cattle ticks.
Landmark Chinchilla livestock agent Terry Ryan said locals were “very concerned” about the outbreak.
“It would have a massive affect here in the Chinchilla district if they had a proper go,” Mr Ryan said.
“If they’re (the cattle) not treated immediately, they can get Redwater (disease), which can kill them.
“If there was an outbreak on one of the bigger properties where they don’t muster as regularly, cattle could be dead before they know the ticks are even on them.
“Any ticky cattle can only go to meatworks to be sold, they can’t go to a saleyard.
“And if the cattle aren’t fat, they won’t want to kill them in the meatworks, and the season in Chinchilla is on a downturn.
“If the cattle are travelling to the meatworks and a truck overturns there will be tick-infested cattle everywhere. And it does happen as any other motor vehicle accident.”
Mr Ryan said he didn’t believe the current system for managing the tick-free zone was successful after laws were changed in 2016.
He said there was no control along the tick line and updated laws relied on an honesty system from producers.
Previously, cattle had to be presented to a tick-clearing station for treatment before moving from the infected zone to the clear zone.
In 2016 the laws were changed to allow producers to organise on-farm inspections by accredited inspectors.
“I believe it’s not a successful program with the responsibility on cattle owners,” Mr Ryan said.
“It must be managed by the government and DAF staff. It looks like DAF have handed it back to producers and wiped their hands of it.
“Everyone has known this would happen because of the change of rules, we just wondered when and where it would happen.
“People along that tick line have spent a lot of time and money to clear their land, and this could ruin that overnight.
“Locals are very concerned about where they might turn up next.”
AgForce Cattle Tick Committee chair and owner of JK Cattle Co’s Justin Boshammer said he also wanted to see improvements to the management of the tick line.
“We’ve wanted to get more staff on the ground to get surveillance happening,” Mr Boshammer said.
“It probably needs to be a mix of the old and the new.
“As long as there are systems in place to get the ticks out of the clean area, that’s the measure of success.”
Mr Boshammer said the Department of Agriculture had “denied outbreaks increasing” since the laws changed, but the AgForce committee was trying to work with the department to get facts and figures.
In the past two years, he said, the biggest outbreaks had been one in Taroom and now Chinchilla.
“The one in Taroom is still ongoing, there’s been nine properties affected and recently one of those properties went down again,” Mr Boshammer said.
“It’s a real nightmare for people in the clean area that get ticks.
“It’s a lengthy process to go through an eradication program to be cleared. There are chemical treatments involved, and restrictions on movements.
“There are huge ramifications if you come up with ticks on your property in the clean area.”
The dry conditions being experienced by much of the tick-free area had prevented more outbreaks from happening, according to Mr Boshammer, as ticks thrive in wet conditions.
He said it was the responsibility of producers in the tick-free zone to make sure any cattle being transported were checked for pests and diseases.
“People who are in the clean area, if they’re going to buy cattle they need to know where they’ve come from.
“If there’s any chance of risk of pest disease they need to do some due diligence to prevent them from coming across.
“If the cattle have come even somewhat close to the tick line, you need to take some preventative measures.
“Particularly transfers like property to property and property to saleyards are the biggest risks.”
Western Downs Regional Council said it would provide assistance where required and had prevented stock passing along stock routes in the vicinity.
❚ A Meat and Livestock Australia research project estimated that cattle ticks cost Australian farms around $156 million per year in production losses and treatment costs.
❚ Cattle ticks are among the most economically damaging of parasites, and if left unchecked they can significantly reduce cattle live-weight gain and conception rates.
❚ Cattle ticks are also responsible for transmitting tick fever, which causes a loss of condition, illness and in severe cases even death.
Any producer who finds suspected cattle ticks should phone DAF immediately on 1800 675 888 and keep the tick samples.
This will allow the infestation to be verified and to facilitate any additional testing that will inform the investigation.
ABOVE: Terry Ryan from Landmark in Chinchilla. BELOW: A map showing the Queensland tickline.