New Johne's programme launched with financial support for four years

Margaret Donnelly

Margaret Donnelly

Phase Two of the Johne's Control Programme have been announced, with financial support for four years available to farmers.

This phase will start on January 1, 2019 and it will be open to all dairy farmers across the country, based on voluntary participation.

Farmers currently registered in Phase One of the programme will automatically have their registrations carried forward to Phase Two. The Department of Agriculture Food and the Marine will provide a national screening component through Bulk Milk Tank testing of all herds.

Phase Two lasts for four years following registration, with herds following either a test-negative or test-positive pathway depending on test results.

  • Herds will complete an annual herd test (one blood or one milk sample per eligible animal).
  • Herds on the test-negative pathway will conduct a Veterinary Risk Assessment and Management Plan (VRAMP) for each of the first three years.
  • Herds on the test-positive pathway will conduct a VRAMP each year, with additional veterinary advice provided through the Targeted Advisory Service on Animal Health (TASAH).
  • DAFM will provide the funding to meet the costs of VRAMPs, ancillary testing and TASAH (where required).
  • Milk processors will provide financial support towards whole herd testing for three years (test-negative pathway).
  • Milk processors and where relevant DAFM, will provide financial support for four years for the cost of testing in test-positive herds.

An objective measure of the progress that each registered herd is making in controlling Johne’s disease will be generated and made available individually for participant farmers through the ICBF, providing assurance for both Irish farmers and international markets.

The new progamme will also see the introduction of national bulk tank milk testing by DAFM to provide national screening of all herds and recruit them into the programme where necessary.

Funding is being provided by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, individual milk processors and farmers with a commitment from DAFM and milk processors to maintain financial supports over a four year period.

Johne’s disease is a bacterial disease of cattle and other ruminants for which there is no cure. It is caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis (MAP), hence the other name for the disease Paratuberculosis.

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Cattle usually become infected as calves early in life by drinking or eating milk or food contaminated with the bacteria, which are shed in the dung or milk of infected adult cattle. On occasion, calves are already infected at birth, with this being most common when their dam has advanced disease.

Sometimes one infected calf can infect pen-mates early in life. Once infected, the disease progresses slowly and silently.

The signs of disease will vary depending upon the stage of infection, how many bacteria the calf swallowed, how soon after birth this happened and how quickly the gut wall has become damaged.  

The signs of infection appear very gradually with reduced feed conversion efficiency leading to loss of productivity followed by weight loss, scour and ultimately emaciation and death.

Very commonly, signs of Johne’s disease won’t actually be visible until the animal has had three or more calves.

However, even before signs are seen, the cow’s resistance to other infections may have already been weakened and she may well have been culled for poor performance due to mastitis, lameness or poor fertility, without this even having been linked to Johne’s disease.

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