Why dairy farmers should tackle Johne’s now

In less than two weeks (by 31 October) farmers supplying purchasing members of the National Johne’s Management Plan (NJMP) – which represents 82% of the UK supply – will need to have met three key compliances:

  • Undertaken appropriate testing
  • Completed a written Johne’s control plan (NJMP objectives-compliant)
  • Got a signed declaration from a BCVA-accredited Johne’s veterinary advisor confirming implementation on-farm.

If achieved, the UK model will be the most successful national Johne’s management scheme worldwide, says vet Nathan Loewenstein from Shropshire Farm Vets.

See also: Johne’s management plan deadline nears for farmers

He believes the impending deadline is an opportunity for the dairy industry to show the public and global markets that the quality and safety of British dairy produce is world-leading.

Below, he outlines five reasons why dairy farmers should see it as an opportunity rather than a requirement to be resented:

  1. Improved farm/livestock health – healthy cows produce (more) healthy milk. Less clinical/sub-clinical disease makes stock healthier and more productive. This in turn will reduce MAP (Mycobacterium avium subsp. Paratuberculosis bacteria) levels within milk entering the human food chain.
  2. Reduce other diseases – many control strategies target reducing calf contact with infected muck (clean calving/calf-rearing areas, early calf removal from calving pens etc). This significantly reduces other faecal-oral-spread diseases, such as calf scour.
  3. Improve livestock sales –identification and removal of high-risk Johne’s animals before they become clinical not only reduces disease-spread/subclinical disease, but also ensures animals exit as profitable barrens rather than dead losses. Many herds find this saving alone offsets all other Johne’s management costs.
  4. Protect future milk contracts – threats to future milk sales can’t be ruled out for herds with high Johne’s levels. Pro-activity now will help safeguard against this. While no definitive proof that MAP bacteria causes Crohn’s exists; there is a large amount of suggestive evidence that they are linked. If this becomes accepted opinion then implications for some dairy producers could be severe – suspension of milk contracts or two-tier milk pricing.
  5. Reach new markets – in a global market, especially with impending Brexit uncertainties; having a herd with low Johne’s risk can only be a good thing. This is especially true considering dairy importers/consumers worldwide are more aware of Johne’s than ever. Sales of heifers from low-risk herds, contracts for infant baby formula and low-risk dairy products are a few of the potential growth areas for proactive farms.

What is Johne’s disease?

Johne’s disease is a slowly developing, incurable disease caused by MAP (Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis) bacteria.

Greatest risk of infection occurs during the first month of life (mainly calves ingesting infectious adult-cow muck), however animals only test positive as “Red” from an average age of 4.6 years.

Clinical animals produce profuse watery scour and lose large amounts of condition; heavily affecting health. Before this, however, Johne’s causes suppression of the animal’s immune system – sub-clinically affected stock can have raised cell counts, mastitis, and lameness; reduced productivity, fertility and longevity.

Aside from costs associated with culling clinical animals, the financial burden associated with sub-clinical disease (listed above) are significant, with uncontrolled outbreak costs estimated at up to £170,000/100 cows/10-year period.