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National Sheep Health Monitoring Project

The National Sheep Health Monitoring Project (NSHMP) commenced in 2007 to monitor lines of sheep in abattoirs for animal health conditions that reduce farm profit through productivity losses or increase meat processing wastage.

Monitoring occurs in 10 domestic and export processing plants located in all states. Lines of sheep are monitored by qualified meat inspectors for a range of livestock production health and welfare conditions. The data from the monitoring is collected and entered into a national database (the Endemic Disease Information System).

The project aims to:

  • monitor sheep for a range of significant animal health diseases and conditions which reduce productivity in the sheep value chain or can impact on market access
  • provide accurate and timely feedback to producers about the conditions occurring in their flock
  • enhance productivity within the sheep value chain by improving the quality of product entering the chain

This will lead to further improvements in Australia’s animal health status, maximised market access, improved profitability, informed future investment into R&D, and enhanced biosecurity.

Check out the video below or this NSHMP fact sheet (pdf – 1 MB) for more information and to find out how to get involved.

Conditions being monitored

Twenty significant animal health conditions are monitored for throughout Australia. These are:

Johne’s disease in sheep

Johne’s disease in sheep (also called ovine Johne’s disease (OJD) monitoring is now on request in most participating abattoirs.

*Producers who want this additional condition inspected for in their sheep need to request it from the participating abattoir when sending their sheep to it. Sheep must be over two years of age to be inspected for JD.

This should be done well in advance of the sheep being sent to the abattoir (e.g. one week).

Requirements and eligibility of sheep

Animals must be over 2 years of age to be eligible for abattoir JD inspection. Sheep under two years have generally not had sufficient time to develop signs of the disease and thus be identified through abattoir inspection.

Only consignments of sheep sold direct to a participating abattoir will be eligible. Sheep sold through saleyards will not be eligible.

What is Abattoir 150 and 500?

Abattoir 150

At least 150 sheep, over two years of age, have been submitted to an abattoir in the past 12 months, in one or more lots, and have been examined and all found negative for JD in sheep. The sheep must have been on the property for at least two years.

Abattoir 500

At least 500 sheep, over two years of age, have been submitted to an abattoir in the past 24 months, in one or more lots, and have been examined and all found negative for JD in sheep. The sheep must have been on the property for at least two years.

If JD is detected?

If lesions consistent with JD are detected in the abattoir inspection, samples will be taken and sent to a lab.

These lesions will then be assessed microscopically by a Veterinary Pathologist to confirm whether the JD bacterium is present and responsible for the lesions sampled.

Once confirmed by the laboratory, your state government representative will inform you of the final results (usually by letter) and can assist you with options on how to proceed in the management of the disease.

If JD is not detected?

Having no lesions detected in a consignment does not necessarily mean your flock is free from JD. It means that it is unlikely JD has been present for a long period of time at a significant level within this group of animals, or that management on farm through long term, appropriate JD vaccination is working if there have been cases in the past.

Regular faecal testing of a representative sample of your flock is still the best way to demonstrate that your flock is at low-risk of having JD.

At the request of the producer, their respective state government can issue certificates for animals slaughtered within the state, verifying that the sheep flock is eligible for either an Abattoir 150 or Abattoir 500 status. This can then be used when declaring your JD status on the National Sheep Health Declaration.

Requesting JD inspection

Organisation

Name

Contact

Department of Primary Industries and Regions, SA Rachel Van Dissel, Senior Animal Health Adviser and OJD Program Manager P: (08) 8568 6417

M: 0428 283 073

E: Rachel.van-dissel@sa.gov.au

Department of Jobs, Precincts and Agriculture Regions, Victoria Dr Alison Lee, Principle Veterinary Officer M: 0418 176 428

E: alison.lee@agriculture.vic.gov.au

Department of Primary Industries, NSW Dr Amanda Walker, Senior Veterinary Officer M: 0439 836 673

E: amanda.walker@lls.nsw.gov.au

Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, WA Kristine Rayner, Veterinary Officer P: 08 9845 7413

M: 0459 880 384

E: Kristine.Rayner@agric.wa.gov.au

Department of Natural Resources and Environment Tasmania N/A E: AnimalDisease.Enquiries@nre.tas.gov.au

Benefits of sheep carcase monitoring

1. The project has generated comprehensive data that provides a good indication of the animal health status of the Australian flock.
2. Governments, industry groups and processors use this information to provide solid evidence in support of market access and to demonstrate the high quality of Australian sheepmeat product.
3. Individual sheep producers can use this information to improve the productiveness of their flock and fine tune their animal health programs.
4. Sheepmeat processors can harness the opportunity to reduce product non-compliance, thereby lifting productivity and reducing costs.

Analysis of sheep health data

In 2022-23 nearly 10 million sheep were inspected in over 42,000 lines. The data shows that the proportion of affected lines for some conditions (e.g. pleurisy and cheesy gland) is high, but the average number of sheep infected in a processing line is quite low.

While the animal health conditions monitored for occur nationally, there is regional variation. Information on NSHMP inspection is contained in the annual report.

Annual reporting

These reports contain a basic analysis of the data from the project, including summaries of the monitored conditions, thus providing a snapshot of the health of a significant proportion of the Australian sheep flock.

Find all annual reports here.

Stakeholders

WoolProducers Australia and Sheep Producers Australia are the peak industry bodies for this project. Funding is through Animal Health Australia sheep meat and wool levies.

State department of primary industries/agriculture (or Local Land Services in NSW) have appointed state coordinators who are involved in the Sheep Health Project Steering Committee.

Meat & Livestock Australia now provide the NSHMP data (except for OJD) through the myFeedback portal, which all producers can access, see here: https://www.mla.com.au/meat-safety-and-traceability/WhatismyFeedback/accessing-myfeedback/

State coordinators

Organisation

Name

Contact

Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Queensland
Department of Primary Industries, NSW Dr Dione Howard M: 0447 348 774

E: amanda.walker@lls.nsw.gov.au

Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources, Victoria Dr Alison Lee P: 0418 176 428

E: Alison.Lee@agriculture.vic.gov.au

Department of Natural Resources and Environment Tasmania Veterinary Officer E: AnimalDisease.Enquiries@nre.tas.gov.au
Department of Primary Industries and Regions, SA Dr Jemma Hassam P:  (08) 8429 4348

E: Jemma.Hassam@sa.gov.au

Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, WA Dr Anna Erickson P: (08) 9881 0211

E: Anna.erickson@dpird.wa.gov.au

Industry contacts

Sheep Producers Australia: admin@sheepproducersaustralia.com.au

WoolProducers Australia: admin@woolproducers.com.au

NSHMP economic modelling

In 2015-2016 the NSHMP was reviewed by Greenleaf Enterprises Pty Ltd. As part of the review, economic modelling was developed and the results are in this extract report.