Japan temporarily bans live cattle exports from Australia over bovine Johne’s fears

Japan has temporarily stopped accepting live feeder and breeder cattle exports from Australia after a number of animals tested positive for bovine Johne’s disease.
The Department of Agriculture confirmed it was aware of the announcement by Japanese authorities and would investigate whether the cattle were prepared according to requirements.
“It’s a concern to us and our department is working closely with Japanese authorities, trying to resolve it as quickly as possible,” said a spokeswoman for Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce.
Johne’s disease, relatively rare in Australia, is caused by bacteria and leads to diarrhoea, tissue wastage and eventual death. Cattle are commonly infected as calves but many do not display symptoms for many years, according to Animal Health Australia.
Japanese inspectors claimed to detect traces of the disease during post-quarantine inspections, a spokeswoman for Mr Joyce said. The affected cattle belonged to a consignment of about 300 Holstein heifers from outside Melbourne that were exported last week, she said.
The number of heifers exported to Japan each year is relatively small. But the temporary suspension will affect the much larger bilateral trade in Wagyu feeder cattle, which are exported to Japan at a rate of 1000 a month, according to trade magazine Beef Central.
Japan is the ninth-largest market for Australian cattle exports, valued at $14.6 million in 2014-15. Australia’s biggest export markets for live cattle are Indonesia, Vietnam and China.
Australian Livestock Exporters Council chief executive Alison Penfold said the affected consignment had been certified as eligible for export, meaning the cattle would have tested negative for Johne’s while in Australia.
“All animals exported from Australia must meet strict importing country requirements and be certified as eligible to receive an Australian Government health certificate,” she said.
“There are government-to-government discussions underway and [the] industry supports this process.”

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