Johnes eradication plan to start in January 2013
A new classification system based on a red, amber and green light system is planned as part of a national programme to tackle Johnes disease from next January.
The disease is a major cause for concern for dairy processors supplying product into the infant formula market because of suspected, albeit unconfirmed, links to the debilitating human form of the disease, Crohn's. However, beef processors are also believed to be anxious to tackle the issue.
It is the next disease on Animal Health Ireland's (AHI) hit list, after the successful roll-out of the BVD eradication scheme. Surveys show that Johnes is prevalent in one in five Irish herds, according to AHI's CEO, Joe Flaherty.
"However, this is not as bad as the US, Holland or the UK where the prevalence can be up to 80pc," he said.
Mr Flaherty warned farmers that eradicating Johnes would not be as straightforward as BVD.
"It's a first cousin of TB and, similar to that disease, without a breakthrough in technology, we will never be 100pc free from it," he said.
"It's a highly resistant disease and there is no single test for Johnes that gives 100pc accuracy."
AHI believe that bulk tank tests for Johnes are highly inaccurate at picking up infection in herds. Instead, the group wants farmers to adopt a similar programme to Denmark where farmers blood test each animal at least once every year.