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Newsletter of Penn Dutch Cow Care July 2006

Hi Folks,

This past month I attended a Johnes meeting and I thought I'd pass along the latest information since some of you ask about Johne's Disease (JD) from time to time. The information in this newsletter is a composite of the information presented by the two state Designated Johne's Coordinators that day. By attending this meeting, I've become a Johne's Certified Veterinarian that can perform risk assessment and develop a herd management plan if you wish to enroll in the PA Johne's Herd Certification Process. This program is based on the Uniform Program Standards for the Voluntary Bovine Johne's Control Program established by USDA:APHIS Veterinary Service. The program is based on the premise that effective JD control requires the adoption of management and biosecurity practices designed to limit the number of new infections that occur by minimizing the exposure of susceptible animals to infectious organisms.

Prior to detailing the program, a little background on Johne's Disease may be handy. Dr. Johne first identified the disease in the late 1800's as a chronic wasting disease in cattle. The symptoms are chronic effortless "pipe stream" diarrhea, weight loss, milk production decrease and normal appetite; near the end, "bottle jaw" occurs. Bottle jaw is when there is so much loss of protein from the system (due to the chronic diarrhea) that the vessels leak. The organism responsible for the condition is Mycobacteria avium paratuberculosis (MAP), which is related to TB and leprosy. Infection occurs from young animals ingesting the organism via infected manure or infected milk or while in the uterus if the dam is very infected. The organism colonizes the gut and the animal eventually mounts an inflammatory reaction to the organism. This reaction thickens the gut wall in the small intestine to the point where normal absorption of nutrients and fluids is hindered. This is then when diarrhea is shown. It is a very slow disease process and most animals are infected very early in life. In fact, the easiest time for an animal to pick up the organism is in the first days of life. However, even adult animals can become infected if the organism is in the environment in high enough numbers. Johne's Disease is contagious and incurable. The MAP organism is found in manure and can live in the environment up to a year. Therefore it is critical to keep infected manure away from animals - especially your young stock. This can be done by making sure that the shovels, forks, bucket loaders, etc. for adult animals are kept separate from young stock. It would be best to have implements dedicated only for young stock. If this is not possible, implements must be washed off prior to feeding young stock. Also, wearing a different pair of over boots prior to going to the young stock is wise. If not possible, hose off boots when going from adult animals to young stock. (You will see me do this routinely prior to going to calves to dehorn them.) In a nutshell, Johne's disease management is manure management in high gear.

The new program that now exists has various levels of participation and is voluntary. The main difference between the old Johnes program and the new one is that the new version requires herds to have an annual herd plan based on a standardized risk assessment carried out by a Johne's Certified Veterinarian. All enrolled herds will be required to complete an annual review of their herd management plan (within 10-14 months of the anniversary date). Herds can participate in the PA Johne's Certification Process at one of three different levels:
(1) management level, (2) control level, or (3) Status Level.

The Management Level is designed for herds that would like to minimize the risk of Johne's Disease entering or spreading within the herd, but do not wish to participate in regular testing of its animals for Johne's Disease. Both infected and un-infected herds may enroll in this level. No claims concerning the level of JD in the herd can be made by herds participating at this level since no structured diagnostic testing is carried out.

The Control Level is designed to benefit herds that would like to minimize the risk of Johne's Disease entering or spreading within the herd and that utilize at least some annual diagnostic testing to monitor animal and herd JD infection status. Both infected and uninfected herds may enroll in this level. If an appropriate testing strategy is used, some estimate of the level of JD in the herd may be made, although no official documentation is provided by the PA Dept. of Agriculture.

If you enroll in the Management or Control Levels, the following are required management practices: Calving areas are to be kept clean, dry and separate from other adult animals so as to minimize the risk of manure exposure to calves; Newborn calves should be separated as soon as possible from all adult animals (at most within a few hours of birth); Colostrum and milk from test-positive cows or cows with symptoms of Johne's Disease must not be fed to replacements; pooled colostrum or milk must not be fed to replacements unless it has been pasteurized; Replacements must be fed milk replacer, pasteurized milk or low-risk single source milk unless they are specifically destined for a fed-beef market; calves and heifers should be housed by age and separate from older animals so as to minimize exposure to manure from older animals; animals with symptoms consistent with Johne's Disease (diarrhea, weight-loss) must be kept away from maternity and young stock housing areas.

The Status Level is designed to identify herds that are test-negative for Johne's Disease. Herd's may achieve Status Level 1,2,3, or 4, with each higher level representing a greater confidence that the herd is free from Johne's Disease. Level 4 would indicate a 99% probability that the herd is free of Johne's disease.

There is money available from USDA which will help support enrollment incentives through the end of September 2006. The incentives are as follows: For herds enrolling in the Johne's Certification Process for the first time - $250 to cover the cost of a Johne's Certified Veterinarian performing the risk assessment and developing the herd management plan in conjunction with the herd owner/manager; and $5.00/head to be paid to the producer to cover their costs associated with doing the risk assessment and herd management plan, and to help offset any testing fees that may be incurred. The maximum paid to producers will be $300.

When enrolled in the program, the ELISA blood test to screen the herd costs $2/sample and the fecal follow-up costs $5-8/sample. Animals which are fecal test positive will have an official quarantine placed on them and only be allowed to be sold for slaughter (not to be sold for dairy purposes). However, the animal can stay on the farm as long as the owner wants, although the positive animal will be shedding the organism in the environment. The quarantine restriction may be lifted in the near future. If you would like to test for Johnes Disease but not enroll in any program, that can be done, but testing fees will be higher. If you are interested in this program, call to ask questions or set up an appointment.

Please note: I've been invited to give a talk about organic dairy medicine at the American Veterinary Medical Association annual meeting. Dr. Kelly will be covering calls from Fri. July 14 through Fri. July 21. He will be covering for sick cows and emergencies but not herd checks.

For Bovinity Health, information on functional alternatives to antibiotics see:

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