Farm Ireland

Tuesday 20 March 2018

Johne's next in AHI sights as industry continues to fight vital war on disease

Peadar Scanaill

The BVD eradication scheme is well into its voluntary year of testing. The response in the beef sector has been very good with more than 43pc of participating herds coming from the beef suckler side.

BVD is every bit as big a problem in the beef herd as it is in the dairy sector.

The novel breakthrough in the testing method to discover persistently infected (PI) carriers at or around the time of birth has had an enormously beneficial effect.

As we speak, Animal Health Ireland (AHI) is identifying those PI animals in the participating herds, and plucking them out of the system at the very outset.

This is like plucking a weed before it grows or goes to seed. It rids the disease at its source.

With all parts of the cattle industry pulling together, it is very possible to rid this country entirely of BVD.

Johne's Disease (paratuberculosis johneii) is next in the sights of AHI. This is a disease from the same family of bacteria as TB.

It is a slow, debilitating disease that causes chronic scour over a period of years from young adulthood until the animal wastes away to a lingering death.

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Beef and milk processors alike are aware of certain hints of a similarity, or veiled link, between Johne's in cattle and Chrohn's disease in humans. Therefore, we need to rid our herd of this disease, both for economic reasons as well as for export market reasons on behalf of the consumer.

Johne's is primarily spread from dam to offspring via colostrum or faecal contamination around the newborn calf.


Historically, we imported vast amounts of this disease in the 1980s and '90s, when we brought in continental bovines from European farms directly onto Irish farms without proper testing or quarantine.

Our control efforts should include testing of blood and/or faeces of adult animals, coupled with care at colostrum feeding time of the newborn animal.

Pooled colostrum or shared colostrum feeding is to be avoided unless the colostrum is from a guaranteed Johne's- free cow.

Can such a cow be found in Ireland at present?

The answer to that lies in the success of the upcoming AHI Johne's control programme.

Let's all do our bit to return the Johne's disease problem in the Irish cattle herd to the infinitely small levels it used to be before we began to import live animals from mainland Europe without proper quarantine procedures.

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