Kansas Groups Collaborate to Fight Johne's Disease

K-State, KAHD, Vet Medicine working to curb the chronic disease.

Published on: Dec 26, 2006

Kansas cattle producers eager to prevent Johne's (pronounced YO-nees) disease in their herds now have some help, thanks to the Kansas Voluntary Johne's Disease Control programs for dairy and beef cattle.

The programs, sponsored by K-State Research and Extension, the K-State College of Veterinary Medicine and the Kansas Animal Health Department, have been funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to help dairy and beef producers test their herds. The programs also can help producers develop management plans to reduce and prevent the disease.

To take advantage of the new program, producers should contact the Kansas Animal Health Department in Topeka at (785) 296-2326. The KAHD can provide a list of Kansas Johne's-certified veterinarians from which producers can choose a veterinarian to test their herd. The Kansas Animal Health Department will reimburse veterinarians a base fee for development of the herd risk assessment and herd management plans. Funds are also available to support diagnostic testing of a portion of the herd.

"Johne's disease is a chronic and incurable intestinal infection of cattle and other ruminant animals," says Larry Hollis, veterinarian with K-State Research and Extension. "It is caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis. It spreads silently. Animals are usually infected in the first few months of life by ingesting infected colostrum or contaminated milk, water or feed. The symptoms, however, don't typically begin until years after infection."

Once sufficient damage to the intestinal lining occurs, the disease causes chronic diarrhea and rapid weight loss. There is no effective treatment for the disease, he says.

The benefits of testing cattle herds voluntarily are numerous, Hollis adds. Producers with infected herds incur losses from premature culling, reduced milk production, lower fertility and increased heifer replacement costs. Poor body condition also lowers cull cow sale prices.

Herds with negative tests may receive premiums as demand for Johne's disease-free animals increases, he says.

Voluntary testing of cattle herds also may benefit human health. The bacterium that causes Johne's disease has been isolated from some patients who have been diagnosed with Crohn's disease. Scientists are working to determine if any significant relationship exists between the two diseases, Hollis says.

More information about the KVJDCP for dairy and beef is available by contacting any Kansas county or district K-State Research and Extension office.