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Focus On Calves To Manage Johne's Disease

14 June 2011

US - A new report from Michigan State University (MSU) states that focusing on the calf is the easiest way for all dairy and beef producers to control Johne’s disease in their herds.

The conclusion came after thorough research and evaluation of Johne’s disease control strategies for nearly a decade in Michigan herds as part of the Michigan Johne’s Disease Control Demonstration Project.

The aim of the study was to identify which management practices are the most effective at controlling the spread of Johne’s disease, a contagious and untreatable disease caused by the bacteria, Mycobacterium paratuberculosis (MAP), that most frequently occurs in calves.

Dr Dan Grooms, veterinarian, Food Animal Division head in the MSU College of Veterinary Medicine and the lead researcher on the project, purely stated “focus on the calf”.

“It sounds too simple, but if we can simply reduce the risk of calves becoming exposed to the bacteria that causes Johne’s disease, then we can make significant progress in reducing the impact of the disease on both dairy and beef operations,” he commented.

Data was collected from beef and dairy herds from the Michigan farms involved in the study and also from farms in 17 other states as part of the larger, multi-state project, the National Johne’s Disease Control Demonstration Project.

Research was carried out by farms who had tested positive for the disease. Each farm was then allocated a specific management style to control the disease.

Mr Grooms commented, “At the end of the project, the farms had reduced the prevalence of Johne’s disease in their herds and the number of cattle detected with clinical signs of the disease, and increased the overall herd health.”

However, the disease was not completely eradicated from any of the herds during the project and, as johne's disease can sometimes only be detected later in life, the researchers have noted that the number of cattle infected may rise in future years.

Mr Grooms concluded saying that farmers had benefited from taking part in the programme as it improved their herds overall health. “In every herd that participated in the project, significant changes were made to how the calves were managed, and the incidence of Johne’s was reduced significantly,” meaning it will have benefited framers both now and in the future.

For more information on the study please visit ( Michigan State University (MSU))

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