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Three Step Calf Rearing Plan

Animal Health Australia (AHA) coordinates the national Johne’s disease (JD) in cattle Framework for the Australian dairy and beef industries, governments and veterinarians.

Three Step Calf Rearing Plan

Because the management of calves is so important in limiting the spread of JD, the dairy industry has introduced a 3-step calf-rearing program as a requirement in CattleMAP for dairy herds.

This independently audited program will reduce the risk that CattleMAP herds are infected with JD.

3 steps for rearing dairy calves

  1. Calves to be reared as replacement heifers or bulls must be removed from their mothers and the calving area within 12 hours of birth.
  2. The calf rearing area, including calf paddocks, must be separated from areas used by adult cattle, and not take any drainage from laneways, yards and paddocks used by adult cattle.
  3. The paddocks used by calves between weaning and 12 months of age must not have had any adult cattle (older than 2 years) run on them in the previous 12 months.

Under the National Dairy BJD Assurance Score, which enables risk-based trading, calves reared under the 3-step plan will score 1 point higher than their herd of origin.

Why young calves are so important

Resistance to JD infection increases with age.

Young calves are much more susceptible to JD than adult cattle. Cattle older than 12 months are relatively resistant to infection.

And the greater the number of infective bacteria an animal is exposed to, the more likely it is to become infected.

Sources of dairy herd infection

Contaminated faeces, soil and other matter

Mycobacterium paratuberculosis that causes JD in cattle is shed in the faeces of infected animals.

The most common way JD is spread through a herd is by calves coming into contact with infected faeces or soil, and other things contaminated with faeces.

Contaminated udders

Suckling from an infected dam’s udder contaminated with manure is a calf’s major source of exposure to the JD bacteria.

Contaminated milk

Calves can also be exposed to JD bacteria that are shed in milk. This is most likely to occur once a cow is showing obvious signs of disease (diarrhoea and weight loss), but can sometimes happen before these symptoms are obvious.

How to minimise calves’ exposure to JD

While newborn calves need to drink colostrum for the antibodies that protect them from various other diseases, the best way to minimise their exposure to JD is to:

  • separate them from their dams as soon as possible after birth
  • rear them in conditions that are free from all material that could be contaminated with adult faeces.

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Page reviewed: 03/07/2016