In a bid to prevent the spread of Johne’s disease in livestock over the coming calving season, Animal Health Ireland (AHI) have issued a pre-calving checklist.
They noted that the weeks after drying off a dairy herd is the best time to begin preparations for the upcoming calving season. AHI urged farmers if they have not already done so, to have their approved Veterinary Practitioner(AVP) to carry out a veterinary risk assessment and develop a management plan (VRAMP) for your herd.
“Based on the recommendations made by your AVP, there is still time to make any adjustments to your pre and post-calving plans for your herd, before the calving season starts.” Animal Health Ireland urged.
They warned that any farmer who had a VRAMP conducted earlier in the year, to review the recommendations that you and the AVP agreed to implement. The checklist below, provided by AHI, should help you ensure you are more than prepared to reduce the risk of Johne’s disease spreading at calving time.
But what is Johne’s disease?
Johne’s disease is a bacterial disease in cattle, sheep and other ruminants, a disease for which there is no cure!
Johne’s disease is a contagious, chronic and mostly fatal disease in sheep, cattle and goats. Johne's disease is caused by a resistant type of bacteria which comes from the same family as TB and leprosy. It is caused by Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis (MAP) and there are several strains.
The infection usually occurs in early life, by calves ingesting contaminated milk or food. Calves/lambs can also sometimes be infected at birth, though usually only when the dam is in the advanced stages of the disease.
The disease can also be spread through an infected animals dung, which contains the bacteria. Once infected, the progression of the disease is slow and often unnoticed. Stage one of the disease is usually undetectable, while in stage two there are again no signs of the disease, bar traces in faeces. In fact, up to 70% of sheep never show any signs of infection.
In Stage Three, animals will continue to eat well, though will not gain much weight. Once this is noticed, a blood test should be undertaken immediately. The final stage of the disease is stage four, where the animals are weak, often suffering from scour, shedding high numbers of the bacteria, and are in an overall bad condition. This is when the disease usually proves fatal.
Control and Prevention -
Improved hygiene practices are the best way of preventing Johne’s disease from spreading.
Once an animal is confirmed as infected, remove any potential water or feed troughs where the animal was kept, as these will be contaminated. Clean out the area where the animal was being housed, removing all and any dung as this will contain the bacteria. A high-standard, calving environment is vital in Johne’s disease control.
Any animal’s deemed to be infected should be quarantined and culled immediately to prevent further infections. If one suspects Johne’s disease within their herd, contact your vet immediately to have various tests carried out, including a faecal test of tissue culture test. A blood test, as previously mentioned, though this can only usually detect the disease in its third stage.
As mentioned, there is no cure for Johne’s disease and often when it is detected, it is simply too late. Vigilance is key when preventing any disease. Monitor your stock, keep your yards and troughs clean, and your farm Johne’s disease-free.
Minister for Agriculture Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, announced the launch of a new Johne’s disease control programme in recent weeks, with €600,000 to be invested. The programme will include herd testing, veterinary risk assessments and ancillary testing where required.