Department of Livestock announces Johne’s Control Program for Montana Cattle and Dairy Producers
In response to feedback from the veterinary community and buyers of Montana cattle, the Department of Livestock (DOL) has developed a state program to reduce the spread of Johne’s disease through animal sales and movement.
Johne’s is a contagious and usually fatal bacterial disease that primarily affects the small intestine of cattle. The Johne’s bacterium is spread between animals through feces. Signs of the disease include diarrhea and weight loss, despite a normal appetite. Signs are rarely seen until two or more years after the initial infection, which usually occurs within 6 months of birth. As a result, animals such as replacement females or bulls, may be infected when purchased, despite appearing healthy.
The goals of the Montana Johne’s Control Program include:
1. Minimize the spread of Johne’s disease through animal sales and movement.
2. Identify positive animals/herds and implement management practices to eliminate the disease.
3. Support non-infected herds by identifying biosecurity practices to prevent the introduction of the disease into their herds.
4. Create a market opportunity for participating herds to advertise their involvement in the program.
Participating producers work with their local veterinarian to develop a herd health plan addressing biosecurity, herd testing, and management of high-risk animals. Producers then obtain a “level of certification” based on the health status of their herd, and their testing plan (whole herd testing vs. individual animal testing). Higher levels of certification suggest a herd is lower risk of being infected with the disease.
MDOL encourages producers to mention their participation in the program while marketing their cattle to show their dedication to minimizing the risk of Johne’s transmission within the industry. Likewise, customers should inquire about the health status of the source herd, or at a minimum, the status of the dam of the purchased animal. It is important for those buying cattle to understand that a positive, managed herd is lower risk that a herd with an unknown/non-advertised status.
Johne’s is a reportable disease in Montana and there are federal restrictions on the movement of positive animals across state lines. Additionally, there have been civil litigation cases brought against producers that have knowingly sold Johne’s positive animals into non-slaughter channels, including for breeding purposes.
MDOL recognizes the significant time, effort and expense necessary to manage a herd for Johne’s disease; however, all livestock producers have a responsibility to prevent the spread of infectious disease.
Producers interested in participating in the program should contact thier herd veterinarian or the Department of Livestock at (406) 444-2043.