It’s a formidable foe, but not an impossible one. Practitioners across the country are counseling clients on how to battle Johne’s disease, and together, they’re winning the fight. These three veterinarians explain the steps they have taken with producers to beat back Johne’s in their herds.
Bird’s-eye view in
During his 35-plus years in practice, Vic Eggleston, DVM, saw his share of herds with Johne’s disease. But, most of his experience was confined to his own practice area in east-central
Is she infected with Johne’s? Helping clients put programs in place can help you find and make better decisions.
Now retired from practice, Eggleston helps dairy producers fight Johne’s from a broader view, as project coordinator of the Wisconsin Johne’s Disease Demonstration Project. The project, started in 2002, is funded by the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board and the USDA. Its goal is to prove that the
Many producers were eager to enroll in the demonstration project, and nine located in various parts of the state were selected. They were required to have at least 10% of their adult animals test positive for Johne’s using a serum enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA).
In addition, the herd owners were interviewed and their facilities inspected to ensure that necessary management changes could be made. The herds range in size from 75 to 1,400 cows. Seven are
All enrolled herds were then placed on the following management protocol:
1. Blood samples are collected on all animals during the last third of lactation.
2. Likelihood ratios based on quantitative ELISA results are assigned as negative, suspect, low-positive, positive and strong-positive.
3. Strong-positive cows are not allowed to freshen and are culled, either immediately or at the end of their lactations.
4. Low-positive and positive cows are identified with colored zip ties in their ear tags. Their colostrum is discarded or fed to bull calves only.
5. Suspect, low-positive and positive cows calve in a separate pen from negative animals.
In addition, the following protocol was assigned for calf management in all of the herds:
1. Thoroughly clean the teats of colostrum donors before harvest.
2. Feed 4 quarts of colostrum within four hours of birth (this volume was adjusted for
3. Remove calves from the dam and maternity pen within one hour of birth.
4. Start feeding milk replacer or pasteurized milk at 24 hours of age.
5. If feeding milk replacer, use a formulation that contains at least 20% fat and protein.
Calf housing changes also were made on a case-by-case basis as needed.
Eggleston says they hope to follow the herds for five to seven years and track their progress. The results to date are quite encouraging.
One of the benchmarks being used to measure success is the infection rate of heifers (at the end of their first lactations) born after the management changes, compared to heifers born 12 months or less before the changes were implemented. A 400-cow herd in the study had a 6.5% infection rate on heifers born before the start of the program. To date, 85 post-program heifers have been tested without a single positive animal. The same herd’s overall positive serum ELISA incidence rate has dropped from 13.4% at the beginning of the program to 8.4% today.
In another herd, 10% of their 750 cows tested positive in the beginning, with 5.1% positive heifers born 12 months or less before the changes. Only one heifer out of 96 born after the changes has tested positive at the end of her first lactation, representing an infection rate of less than 1%.
If pointing to one management change that makes the biggest difference in conquering Johne’s disease, Eggleston says it would have to be maternity pen management. “I constantly marvel at the ingenuity of dairymen in customizing their facilities to implement our recommendations,” he says. “The herds that have been able to successfully segregate their maternity areas have made tremendous progress in a relatively short time period.”
If pointing to one management change that makes the biggest difference in conquering Johne’s disease, Vic Eggleston, DVM, says it would have to be maternity pen management.
Breaking the stigma
Eggleston says that one of the biggest challenges in tackling Johne’s disease is getting practitioners to acknowledge that it is a problem. “In practice, we saw dairymen who switched veterinary practices because they couldn’t persuade their veterinarians to help them take on the problem,” he notes. “The same scenario repeated itself when we were recruiting herds for this project. Several producers expressed frustration that they could not get their local practitioners to acknowledge that they had Johne’s.
“Producers rely on their veterinarians as a reliable source of health information. For a disease like Johne’s, we have to be on board and work at it proactively if the problem is ever going to be solved. It’s not in our best interest to ignore it, and it is definitely in our best interest to help them fix it.”
Eggleston believes that recent funding to certify veterinarians and pay them to do risk assessments has both opened the eyes of practitioners and made their clients more aware of Johne’s and the impact it can have. In addition, the local veterinarians serving the demonstration project herds have been “totally cooperative,” reports Eggleston. “This project has been a growth experience for all of us, and a fortunate side effect is that in a few years, nine
Accentuate the positive
Don Hansen, DVM, MPVM, has been involved with Johne’s disease from the ground up, first as a practitioner in
Hansen has been involved with the NJWG since its inception more than a decade ago. The advice he has to share with practitioners today is hard-won and seasoned with years of Johne’s experience.
“It’s no doubt that many producers, and sometimes their veterinarians, get hung up on the perceived baggage that the Johne’s disease label carries,” Hansen acknowledges. “My reply is that, to control Johne’s, you are managing against fecal-oral disease transmission. That’s a good thing to do whether you have Johne’s or not. You’ll also be preventing Salmonella, E. coli, rotavirus, coronavirus and Cryptosporidium, plus your dairies will be raising more live calves. What’s not to like about that?”
Hansen says the veterinarian is the key influencer on issues like Johne’s disease. The more comfortable practitioners are about addressing the disease and the management changes required to control it, the more likely their clients will be to comply. “If the veterinarian supports it, it tends to get done,” states Hansen.
This approach also can help facilitate collaboration with others who have a vested interest in Johne’s disease. Hansen says that in
Don Hansen, DVM, says, “Johne’s is no longer an isolated problem. It’s an industry proglem, and every dairy herd in the country needs to worry about it.”