Tick outbreaks on the increase
NEW infestations of cattle ticks have been discovered on properties in the Warwick “tick-free zone” as industry concerns grow about a lack of resourcing of stock inspectors state-wide.
As reported previously in the Daily News, a local property was placed under cattle movement restrictions just before Christmas after a tick outbreak was detected and neighbouring properties were also subject to restrictions.
A Biosecurity Queensland spokesman yesterday confirmed the property concerned is at Swanfels, with two other properties at Maryvale found to be infested in recent weeks.
The spokesman would not give further details of the location of the properties, citing the Privacy Act, but he said the producers concerned were working “cooperatively” with Biosecurity Queensland to manage the tick outbreak.
Warwick is classified as being within the “tick free zone” west of the Great Dividing Range, with tick fever a potentially fatal disease in cattle.
Biosecurity Queensland Principal Policy Officer Malcolm MacLeod said a separate infestation had been found recently on an Oakey property and 15 properties in the previously tick-clean zone of central Queensland have been found with ticks in recent months, the first outbreaks to occur in decades.
“All the neighbouring properties (at Maryvale) have been inspected and no more ticks were found,” Mr MacLeod said yesterday.
“To minimise the potential spread of these pests, infected properties and neighbouring at-risk properties are under stock movement restrictions.”
“These restrictions will continue until such time as the property managers have successfully undertaken a cattle tick eradication program.”
Mr MacLeod said the Maryvale infestation was discovered after an outbreak of tick fever and producers should be alert to the signs, which include depression, weakness, jaundice, increased temperatures and staggering in cattle.
The State Opposition and lobby group AgForce have blamed a stripping back of on-the-ground stock inspectors by the Bligh Government for the current inland explosion in tick numbers.
Many livestock clearing dips – including the one at Aratula east of the range – are now run by outside contractors and most require livestock owners to book 48 hours in advance for dipping if taking cattle over the Range.
It is believed a large part of the problem is hobby farmers buying cattle from coastal areas and being ignorant of the requirement to dip stock, although the summer floods have also been blamed for a spread of ticks to the inland.
Movement restrictions in place on affected properties mean animals to be shifted either for sale or slaughter must first be inspected and if necessary treated.
But with stock inspectors now virtually non-existent in the local area many are doubting the State Government's ability to carry out proper inspections and a review of cattle tick management systems remains incomplete despite being started in 2009.
AgForce cattle policy director Andrew Simpson said under-resourcing of Biosecurity Queensland was “absolutely a major problem”.
“But it also comes down to livestock owners being negligent and breaching cattle tick protocols,” he said.
Mr Simpson said it was “open to question” if stock owners who failed to observe the treatment requirements should be publicly identified.
LNP Member for Gregory Vaughan Johnson said in April the Bligh Government needed to urgently redress cuts to frontline stock inspection services at clearing dips.
“Stock inspectors play a vital role in protecting Queensland's iconic beef industry …this is not a service that's downloadable from the government website,” he said.
“It's about boots on the ground at saleyards and tick clearing dips at strategic centres around Queensland …it's about ensuring the resources are available to tackle outbreaks of pests and diseases that threaten productive capacity.”
To report suspected cattle ticks found in the tick free zone, call 13 25 23 and for information on cattle tick movement requirements visit www.dpi.qld.gov.au