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Ontario tops up Johne’s prevention program

Ontario’s dairy industry will get $300,000 in provincial funds to support a four-year program aimed at preventing Johne’s disease in dairy cattle.

The Johne’s Education and Management Assistance Program is an initiative spearheaded by the province’s dairy producers, industry members and veterinarians to protect and boost farm productivity, cattle health and food safety.

Johne’s is a common bacterial infection in cattle intestinal tracts, often passing unnoticed on dairy farms. At least one Ontario dairy herd in five is estimated to have some Johne’s-infected cattle.

Dairy cattle that don’t show symptoms could still exhibit decreased milk production, decreased fertility and increased mastitis.

The disease, usually spread by ingestion of bacteria shed by infected cattle, can incubate through calfhood over several years before animals show symptoms such as diarrhea, noticeable weight loss and sometimes fever.

The bacteria multiply only inside animals but can survive in pastures or water sources for a year or more.

With no curative treatment, 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. Adult animals found to harbour the bacteria must be removed from the herd.

Incentive

The Ontario industry program, which launched Jan. 1, is described as a “proactive, non-regulatory initiative” that complements the safeguards for animal health in the province’s new Animal Health Act.

The program’s components include education, on-farm risk assessment, herd testing and the “permanent removal of high-test positives” by culling.

Producers taking part in the Ontario program need to complete an annual animal health and Johne’s risk assessment and management plan (RAMP) with their herd veterinarian.

As a financial incentive for producers to test all lactating cows once during the four years of the program, it will reimburse producers for testing at $8 per cow tested, provided an entire milking herd is tested on one test day.

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