The roll out of the voluntary Johne’s disease control programme for dairy herds across Ireland is now well under way. More than 190 vets have undergone training last year and farmer participation has peaked at 1,500.

This is according to Professor Simon More, Johne’s Disease TWG chairman, in the latest Animal Health Ireland newsletter out.

“The programme will see enrolled farmers completing three main elements. Firstly an on-farm veterinary risk assessment, highlighting areas of potential risk for entry and spread of Johne’s disease on individual farms.”

Secondly, Prof More said a testing programme for the herd, involving screening of all cattle greater than two years of age in the herd will take place. “Farmers will be able to choose from two options: taking one blood sample to two milk samples from each adult animal each year. The milk samples can be taken as part of two regular milk recording events and the blood sample at day one of the annual TB test.”

The third key element is the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation animal movement report. “Essentially a history of animal purchase into the herd, which will be used in combination with the test results to determine the initial risk classification of each farm for Johne’s disease.

So far 11 vet training courses have taken place for on-farm risk assessment, where 190 vets have completed the course and more training is set for 2014.

According to Prof More, more than 1,500 farmers have registered an interest in the programme to date.

“Funding has been received from the Department of Agriculture to cover the costs of the on-farm veterinary risk assessment on farm and test interpretation aspects for the first 1,000 participants, and a further tranche of funding is being sought due to the large interest in the programme,” he explained.

“Many of the milk processors are also making a contribution to the costs of the testing programme, which AHI sees as a very positive step in industry collaboration and disease control.”

The Johne’s programme working group is now focusing on completing on-farm risk assessments suitable for use on beef enterprises.

“This will be available in early 2014. In addition, the TWG continues to finalise technical details of the programme, providing the best available scientific advice to inform decision-making,” he concluded.

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