THE BIG PICTURE: John Cochrane is confident the risk of Johne’s disease will be contained.
THE BIG PICTURE: John Cochrane is confident the risk of Johne’s disease will be contained. Craig Warhurst

Disease ‘no real threat’ to milk plans

CIVIC leaders and dairy farmers have embraced Gina Rinehart's plan to build a milk powder plant in the Mary Valley but questions are being asked about the region's capacity to supply it and about the threat of Bovine Johne's disease to Queensland's dairy herd.

Those who played a role in securing the $500,000 project here said yesterday they were confident the State Government would ensure any risks associated with BJD would be managed properly.

Hope Dairies plans to build a 16,000 holstein herd and to start exporting powdered milk in late 2016.

Some stock will have to be sourced from southern states where Johne's disease exists. It does not "exist" in Queensland and any property suspected of housing a cow with BJD is forced into lockdown.

Member for Gympie David Gibson said yesterday he was sure the risk would be managed properly, as it was when it was first detected in Queensland in November, 2012, and then again in late 2013.

"Hope Dairy has been working on this proposal for nearly 12 months and I'm advised are very much aware of the situation here in Queensland," Mr Gibson said.

"They have engaged expert advice and are committed to supporting Queensland dairy farmers and growing the Queensland dairy herd."

Hope Dairies spokesman Jason Morrison said the company's focus was to stop dairy Queensland stock from being sold south.

"There is a lot of enthusiasm about the project and also a lot of speculation about the plans and design," he said. "The project is still in the design stage as we continue to purchase land.

"We have a number of dairy experts working for us who are well aware of all the issues and are very experienced and knowledgeable in the field."

Property agent and dairy farmer John Cochrane says the project will not only resuscitate dairying but could stimulate property values.

"I think we need to think about the big picture," he said.

"When you first hear they are going to be sourcing cattle from down south you think 'Oh my god!' but if you think through it, we have got to encourage these people here.

"The number one priority is we must have this investment in Queensland - and we must have it in Gympie."

Mr Cochrane said cattle from southern states were already being accepted into Queensland feedlots for slaughter.

"Does Johne's disease affect the milk? No. But the cattle must be contained and they must be slaughtered on that property.

Mr Cochrane said Queensland was 100 million litres of milk short this year and yet the market had not responded.

"It just highlights that we needed something from left field," he said.

But he says dairy farmers must do some serious preparation by building up herd numbers, which could require investment in genetic material like semen and embryos.

Social media feedback indicates some people believe Mrs Rinehart has an ulterior motive and is gaining access to the Mary Valley only so she can mine it.

Gympie Times

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