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Johne’s disease and beef cattle

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

Beef industry approach to JD

JD is difficult, but not impossible, to eradicate from infected properties.

The principal focuses are to avoid introducing JD infection into a disease-free beef cattle herd; and to detect, isolate and cull high-risk animals from a newly infected herd

How to avoid JD infection in a beef herd

Effective farm and industry biosecurity are extremely important in mitigating the risk of introducing or spreading animal diseases.

7 basic steps to protect a beef herd from JD

  1. Implement a farm biosecurity plan for your property that identifies the most likely sources of disease risk and strategies to minimise the risk of disease coming onto your property. Use the National Farm Biosecurity Reference Manual – Grazing as a basis.
  2. Only buy, sell or agist high assurance cattle, such cattle with higher JD assurance, accompanied by a National Cattle Health Declaration (since the most likely source of infection for beef herds are infected cattle brought onto a property).
  3. Avoid introducing (buying, agisting) adult dairy-cross or dairy cattle unless they have been Check Tested or come from Dairy Score 7 or 8 herds. Seek additional assurance through a National Cattle Health Declaration from the vendor.
  4. Only use livestock agents who understand and comply with the National Cattle Health Declaration.
  5. Carefully select embryo recipients to ensure animals are sourced from high assurance herds, such as Dairy Assurance Score 7+.
  6. Assure your herd disease resistance through good nutrition and parasite control. Identify animals that are failing to grow or fatten.
  7. Isolate and investigate any suspect animals, and report anything suspicious to a local veterinarian for investigation.

How to manage a confirmed JD infection in a beef herd

Beef producers with a confirmed JD infection should seek advice from there local cattle veterinarian, or state JD coordinator.

5 management strategies for JD in a beef herd

  • Consider an initial herd test to determine high-risk groups, gauge the spread of disease in the herd, and detect other infected cattle.
  • Use targeted or pooled sampling to screen for high or low-risk groups.
  • Identify, segregate and remove high-risk animals
    • recent progeny of visibly infected cows
    • siblings of visibly infected cattle
    • companion animals the same age as visibly infected cattle
    • animals that, as calves, were in contact with visibly infected cattle.
  • Isolate and promptly cull any animals showing visible signs of JD, but ensure they do not enter the food chain.
  • Prioritise high-risk animals for culling.

In cases where the disease is not well established at the time of detection, an aggressive program of culling high-risk animals can be sufficient to eradicate the disease.

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Page reviewed: 29/11/2019