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Good quality colostrum from Johne’s free cows is

frozen to feed calves snatched at birth

The new calving area for Johne’s positive cows

AND all the progeny of Johne’s positive cows

Control focus

The predominant transmission route is

faeco-oral as the newborn calf ingests MAP

from Johne’s positive cows, from muck on the

teats or in the bedding. Milk and colostrum

from infected dams are another source of MAP


‘So control of Johne’s requires a focus on the

management of Johne’s positive cows and all

newborn calves,’ says Kate.

Control strategies at

Hook Farm

One of Drove’s clients who is facing up to

the long term challenge of eradicating Johne’s

disease from his herd is Richard Woolford,

of Hook Farm near Royal Wootton Bassett.

Here, 240 cows are milked giving 10,500

litres/cow on an all year round calving system.

‘I can understand why some farmers are

reluctant to look for Johne’s,‘ says Richard. ‘It

might open a can of worms! It’s certainly a

long term battle. We’ve been working at it for

10 years, stepping up the process over the

past 5-6 years. We are making progress!‘

The first cases of Johne’s disease appeared on

the farm around 12 years ago. Classically, it

was in cows that had just calved; they started

scouring, losing body condition and coat

condition. They were still eating, but milk

yields were lower than predicted.

Richard explains: ‘We had conversations with

our vet, we knew we needed to do something.‘

A 30-cow screen was carried out by Richard’s

milk recording company and more Johne’s

positive animals were found. So quarterly milk

testing of the whole herd was then instigated,

and cows are ranked as ‘high’ or ‘medium’

positive for Johne’s.

Kate explains: ‘Where a herd has low

numbers of Johne’s positive animals then they

could be culled out, as they are identified.

But in Richard’s case, a longer term approach

was needed.

The herd is kept closed, and all Johne’s

positive cows are bred only to beef sires, so

none of their progeny enter the milking herd.

Snatch-calving is also carried out on calves

of Johne’s positive cows. Kate explains:

‘This helps prevent the calf from suckling

colostrum that is infected, but more

importantly it removes that calf from the

environment contaminated with potentially

MAP-infected dung.‘

Separate calving area

Recognising the need to keep all newborn

calves away from Johne’s positive cows, but

with no separate space available, Richard

initially tried leaving the Johne’s cows in the

cubicles for longer. Then moving them in with

the ‘hospital’ group of milkers to calve. ‘This

was quite a compromise though,‘ explains

Richard. ‘They weren’t getting the transition

feed, and it was extra work having them mixed

in with the milkers.‘

In 2012, a better opportunity presented itself.

A new building for the parlour and dairy was

being built, which included a covered

collecting yard and handling area. The design

left an unused corner and Richard has turned

this into a straw-bedded covered area and

yard especially for Johne’s positive cows.

Richard explains: ‘It’s away from the main

calving pen, but still easy to keep an eye on

the cows. It has made Johne’s management so

much easier, and cows can receive their

transition ration too.‘

Richard has taken a ‘belts and braces’

approach, and also puts the daughters of

Johne’s positive cows into this new calving

area. Some of these daughters may not have

been snatch-calved and there is a small risk

they may go on to test Johne’s positive.

Keeping track

Some farms use red ear tags or coloured leg

bands to identify Johne’s animals. Richard

explains: ‘I’m not keen on the tags as these can

get lost, and we already use different coloured

leg bands for mastitis management. Besides,

it’s the ear tag number or freeze marks that we

look at when drying cows off or selecting

semen straws.‘

So at Hook Farm, Johne’s positive results are

recorded on the Interherd software programme

as a ++ or + after the animal ID, to denote

high or medium infection.

As it can take several years for the disease to

appear, Richard also keeps track of the progeny

of Johne’s positive cows on the system. They are

identified with a ** or * after their number.

Lists of all the cows are then pinned up onto the

office noticeboard, with a fluorescent pen used

to further highlight the Johne’s cows making it

easy for all staff to check the status of any

animal, and follow the appropriate protocols.

Kate adds: ‘Richard has created his own

system which works well for his farm. Drove’s

DEW Club monthly report also includes lists

which highlight the Johne’s positive cows due to

calve or be served, as an aid for farmers.‘

Every farm

Kate says: ‘Milk buyers are starting to demand

that farmers find out their herd’s Johne’s disease

status. But every farm should know this anyway!

‘The main transmission route for Johne’s disease

is the faeco-oral route so management of the

calving cow is key to preventing its spread.

However the strategy and tactics taken will

vary from farm to farm.

‘Richard had the luxury of space to make a

calving pen for dry cows with a Johne’s record.

But everyone can do something once they’ve

started testing and are finding Johne’s positive

animals. The establishment of policies for the

breeding, calving and culling of Johne’s

positive animals is a good start on controlling

this insidious disease.‘

The original calving area – now only houses

cows and heifers with no family history of Johne’s


The Johne’s status of all cows can be seen on the

office noticeboard