Johnes eradication plan to start in January 2013

Darragh McCullough

Darragh McCullough

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.

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Alternatively, individual milk samples or faecal samples can be used within the AHI programme.


"Sequential testing will be the main element but farmers are also going to have to rethink their approach to buying in stock to keep on top of this disease," said Mr Flaherty.

AHI's implementation group are now drawing up proposals to begin a green, amber and red light classification system to indicate individual herd's biosecurity status.

There will be three sub-divisions within each of these categories, according to Mr Flaherty. Herds that had a positive animal will be assigned a red light status.

Carbury co-op in west Cork has already implemented a Johnes programme over the past three years. In 2012, all suppliers were expected to test their cows, using combinations of either blood or milk tests.

While the cost of these tests was up to €5.80/cow, the co-op invested €140,000 into the programme by offering each participating supplier €100 towards the costs involved.

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