Atlantic provinces launch strategy against Johne’s

Atlantic Canada’s four dairy boards and the Atlantic Veterinary College have launched a program of testing and assessment to help limit the spread of Johne’s disease in dairy cattle.

The boards and the University of Prince Edward Island’s AVC on Monday launched what’s called the Atlantic Johne’s Disease Initiative (AJDI), a program of herd testing, risk assessment by veterinarians, and “selective” cow testing.

The program strategy was developed by AVC’s Maritime Quality Milk (MQM) with a team of veterinarians from around the region.

“In developing the AJDI, we examined other similar programs from across Canada and internationally,” MQM director Dr. Greg Keefe said in a release. “The AJDI takes the best from each of these programs, and develops a sustainable model to reduce the disease in infected herds and prevent spread from herd to herd.”

The testing and assessment procedures involved are designed to “strategically, and in a cost-efficient manner, reduce the impact of Johne’s disease on the regional dairy industry by decreasing existing infections and reducing new infections,” the partners said.

Lab support for the program will come from the MQM Johne’s research laboratory at AVC. The MQM lab, AVC noted, is “the only facility in Eastern Canada that is proficiency-tested by the (U.S. Department of Agriculture) for five Johne’s diagnostic methods.”

Producers can request enrolment online at the AJDI website.

Participation in the program is “fully voluntary,” the partners noted, and “substantial resources are available to assist herds that have the disease to decrease spread and overall prevalence on the farm.”

Farms with herds testing negative, meanwhile, would be provided with management plans to maintain their status.

Funding support is to come from the four dairy boards, the four provincial Canadian Agricultural Adaptation Program (CAAP) councils, and MQM. The funding partners on Monday pledged a total of $1.1 million over three years to the AJDI.

Ontario, Manitoba, Quebec and Alberta have already set up similar programs, while according to the Canadian Animal Health Coalition, Saskatchewan and British Columbia are “considering program options.”

“Consequences”

“The cost of Johne’s to individually affected dairy farmers can be substantial, and there are considerable consequences for our overall industry,” AJDI steering committee chairman Reint Jan Dykstra, a dairy farmer from Salisbury, N.B., said in Monday’s release.

Johne’s is a common bacterial infection in cattle intestinal tracts, but is still considered “among the top animal health priorities of the Canadian dairy industry,” AVC said.

The disease is known to lead to “significant” milk production losses, increased risk of culling and reduced breeding success. Dairy cattle that don’t show symptoms could still show lowered milk production, decreased fertility and increased mastitis.

The bacteria causing the disease can multiply only inside animals but can survive in pastures or water sources for a year or more. Johne’s can only be controlled in a herd by raising calves in a clean environment where they’re fed milk clear of the bacteria.