The true cost of disease to Australian producers

03 July 2015

Cattle tick costs the average northern Australia cattle producer $7,902/herd each year. Internal parasites cost the average southern cattle producer $1,498/herd per year while peri-natal mortality can cost sheep producers an average of $12,330/flock annually.

These figures  are part of a startling new picture of the cost and impact of disease on Australia's cattle, sheep and goat industries.

The research was commissioned by MLA to establish an up-to-date snapshot of which diseases were having the greatest effect and at what cost. Previously industry had been relying on research carried out in 2006.

What’s similar? What’s different?

While diseases such as cattle tick, buffalo fly, ephemeral fever, weaner ill thrift, perennial rye grass toxicity, internal parasites and flystrike have remained important in both reviews.

"The importance of peri-natal mortality in sheep and cattle was elevated compared to 2006.  There have been recent studies quantifying lamb losses and when these were fully valued across the industry the dollars lost were high," said Jim Rothwell, MLA’s Program Manager, Animal Health, Welfare and Biosecurity.

"Similarly new findings have quantified calf and other reproductive losses in northern Australian cattle and the financial impact of those losses was higher than previously thought.

“The figures for BVDV (Pestivirus) have gone up based on recent studies of prevalence and the large reproductive losses suspected to be associated with infection in northern Australia.  Theileria infection has made it onto the list and is an emerging disease. "

Prioritising future R&D

Jim said the findings of the first two phases of the research, conducted by consultants GHD, will help establish industry priorities and guide R&D investment.

The next two phases, to address knowledge deficits, will be directed by the new regional consultation process.

Top five sheep diseases

  1. Peri-natal mortality $540.4 million (includes losses due to dystocia – difficult births – below)
  2. Internal parasites $435.9 million
  3. Dystocia $219.6 million
  4. Weaner ill thrift and mortality $187.55 million
  5. Flystrike $173.17 million

Top five cattle diseases (figures are the total cost to northern and southern herds)

  1. Cattle tick $156 million
  2. BVDV/Pestivirus $117 million
  3. Buffalo Fly $98.1 million
  4. Dystocia $97.8 million
  5. Neonatal calf mortality $96.2 million

Goats

Internal parasites (at $2.5 million) were the biggest disease threat to goats.

Using industry consultation, surveys and interviews, lists of diseases were established for sheep, cattle and goats. The economic cost of each disease as a result of production losses, preventive costs and treatment costs was estimated at the herd and flock level, then extrapolated to a national basis using herd/flock demographics from the 2010-11 Agricultural Census by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Read the full report

Jim Rothwell, MLA jrothwell@mla.com.au

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