Johne’s disease is the most difficult of all cattle diseases to control, but a new initiative launched at the Dairy Event aims to get vets and farmers working together to limit its impact.

That’s the view of beef producer Keith Redpath, chairman of the Johne’s disease steering committee, set up with support from DEFRA.

As a breeder, he said he was concerned about the number of UK herds with Johne’s.

“Many farmers are ignoring Johne’s, not realising it is losing many of them thousands of pounds a year.

“It is an increasing problem and a worldwide one.

But many other countries are making progress on control.”

He also credited the UK Welsh Black Society for eliminating Johne’s from many herds.

“There is no easy fix for the disease, as it takes five years to eradicate it from infected herds,” he said.

But the eradication will have financial benefits for those herds and open up export markets for pedigree cattle.

Wilts vet Keith Cutler, representing the British Cattle Vet Association, added that it is not until the later stages of the disease that it becomes apparent.

“It is difficult even for vets to accurately diagnose, particularly in the early stages when you need to control it.”

He supported the team approach, involving farmers and vets, which the initiative aimed to promote.

“It will help address the issue with a programme of education for vets, as well as farmers.”

In just one year since its first meeting, the committee which involves many industry associations has prepared the first phase of its campaign which will see vets circulated with information packs and posters go up in markets.

“But this is only the start of an ongoing campaign,” said Bill Parrish of DEFRA.

He also announced that a UK wide milk prevalence survey of Johne’s would take place in 2007, giving an indication of the spread and incidence of it which wasn’t currently available.

Producers interested in knowing how they can tackle the disease should discuss it with their vet – who should have the packs soon.

A farmer leaflet is also available from vets.
jessisca.buss@bri.co.uk