Johne’s, housing and veterinary action - Veterinary Practice
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Johne’s, housing and veterinary action

Richard Gard looks at current and planned future activity and the strategies being promoted to help farms control the disease.

and the potential
impact of Brexit does not seem to be a
particular topic of conversation locally.
More a case of whatever will be will
be. However, a relatively small planning change
has led to increasing
levels of mutterings.

Farmers with
redundant barns were
given the right to convert
them into dwellings.
The use of the dwelling
thereafter was not
specified and holiday lets
have arisen as well as properties sold,
either finished or under development.
This was seen as a bonanza for those
farmers with outdated buildings. There
was also no limitation on erecting a
new barn to replace the redundant

Money for the farmer and a home
for others was the targeted policy. It
appears that living next to a farm has
not been found to be idyllic for some
residents. The sign on a farm gate (top
) rather sums up the situation.

There appear to be a few unintended
consequences with one disease control
initiative. It is a little over a year ago
that the National Johne’s Management
Plan was launched and the response
from farmers and veterinary practices
has been very encouraging with 80% of dairy farmers in Great
Britain engaging in “robust Johne’s
management activities”, accessed
by Sophie Throup on behalf of the
delivery team.

The first phase of the programme
is now over and an analysis of the
participation data will be available at
the end of the year.

Initial indications are that over 80%
of the herds surveyed show evidence
of infection with the majority of
herds having fewer than 5% of high-
risk cows, but a level of 20% is not

Although clinical cases are likely to
be few, the impact of the infection
on herd performance is increasingly
being recognised. Establishing herd
disease status is being promoted, with
the strategy that the more frequent the
testing the better the understanding of
the disease. Slap bang in the middle of the strategy is the veterinary surgeon,
but only veterinary surgeons who are

Establishing facts and figures

Cartoon cows and drawings outline that 80% of Johne’s
infections occur within
the first month of life.
The Johne’s Action
lea et also explains
that calves ingest faeces
through contaminated
bedding, udders, teats
or on dirty buckets of
colostrum or milk. Less
commonly the disease can be acquired in the womb or in later

The website
encourages the farmer to engage with
the farm vet to establish an ongoing
strategy for the disease and its control.
As various strategies are available it is
recognised that the farmer needs the
vet to review the technical information
and agree the best way forward. One
size does not t all.


Six strategies are promoted arising
from disease screening. The “targeted
cow screen” is assessed from blood or
milk samples of cows with histories of
poor yield, weight loss or high somatic
cell counts. Bulk milk monitoring does
not detect the early stages of infection.

From the results of repeated whole
herd screens, whole herd individual
samples, targeted cows and bulk
milk ELISA the vet and the farmer
commence a strategy. If the infection
is absent, monitor and manage to keep
the herd disease-free.

Risk and prevalence are key. Low R
and P – manage the cows to prevent
transmission from cow to calf. Higher
P – increased testing, biosecurity and
biocontainment. Low P but infected –
utilise culling as well as other measures.
High R and high P – do not breed herd
replacements from infected cows.

Vaccination is available as a rebreak
to engage with one of the strategies,
but tests cannot differentiate between
antibodies from diseased or vaccinated
animals and so ongoing test assessment
can be compromised. There are added
complications with reading a TB test
from vaccinated animals. It is easy to see why,
once a farmer
with Johne’s
Action, the
vet is an
essential part
of ongoing
and advice.

There is a form that the vet and the
farmer sign, which is forwarded to the
farm milk purchaser, detailing the steps
taken to recognise the disease and
indicate the appropriate strategy being
adopted. There is also a space for the
farmer to state that “I do not know my
Johne’s Disease herd status and I have
not discussed disease risk with my vet”.
The number of farmers completing
this section is not yet available.

The list of participating
organisations that support the initiative
is impressive and great attention
is anticipated to make sure the
programme delivers accurately and

Training take-up

During the past year, over 120
veterinary surgeons have taken
up training as a BCVA Accredited
Veterinary Adviser. The training is
open to all, not just BCVA members
and the cost is minimal. Registration
with the BCVA provides access to
online modules and completion means
the name of the vet is added to the
accreditation list and shared with the
National Johne’s Action Group.

The vet becomes a BAJVA (BCVA
Accredited Johne’s Veterinary Adviser).
In order to advise clients a vet has
not needed the nominal, but this has
changed as the programme moves into
phase two.

The National Johne’s Management
Plan steering group has been seeking
views on the next phase, which runs
from now until December 2019 and important changes have been agreed.
Only BAJVA vets will be able to sign
the disease status form to be given to
the milk purchaser.

A target of 95% of national milk
production is to be collected from
farms of known Johne’s status, with
a more centralised system to monitor
disease prevalence and a uniform
approach to sharing information and
undertaking action.

The National Johne’s Management
Plan is funded by the milk purchasers.
Dairy UK and AHDB are prime
movers and RAFT Solutions Ltd
( is managing
the delivery.

Gradually throughout 2017, the
assessment of herds will be collated
and disease status reappraised
throughout the following two years.
An increasing level of veterinary
involvement is anticipated.

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