Funding for Johne's Disease Testing

Dr. Clell V. Bagley, D.V.M.
USU Extension Veterinarian

    The recent session of the Utah Legislature provided $40,000 to assist Utah cattle owners in testing their herds for Johne's Disease. This funding and the testing program are now available for you to begin using. Information has been, or will shortly be, sent to each dairyman by the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food telling you the simple steps needed to obtain the assisted testing. I would urge you to watch for this information, read it, and become involved with the program.

    Our dairy herds are at special risk because of the herd consolidation and cattle movement which is currently taking place. If you are involved in this process, your herd is at risk of becoming infected - but you will not know it for 5-10 years. In a national survey (1996), it was found that approximately 25% of the dairy herds were infected. The bright side is that 75 to 80% of the herds are free of Johne's Disease and can stay free with some management changes. If your herd is free, it will be worthwhile for you to know it, and to make the management effort to keep your herd free.

    Why should you bother? You have enough other problems to worry about already. You know about consumers and the effect their perception can have on their purchases. Below are three quotes from a recent dairy publication. Read these and see which of them you think the media is going to spotlight. These three quotes all relate to the potential relationship between Johne's Disease and a human disease - Crohn's Disease. The "real" answer is not known yet. It should become better clarified in the next couple of years, but this is the potential for the current "perception."

(All three of these quotes are from an excellent article by Paula Mohr in Dairy Today, May 2001.)

"There's no conclusive evidence that MAP (the agent which causes Johne's Disease) or any other bacteria is the cause of Crohn's." (Dennis Lang, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease)

"I don't know if MAP causes Crohn's disease, but I am pretty well convinced that a significant percentage of CD patients are infected with MAP." (Michael Collins, DVM, PhD, School of Veterinary Medicine, Univ of Wisconsin, one of leading experts in U.S. on Johne's Disease)

"I am absolutely certain that some strains of MAP can be pathogenic for humans and can cause Crohn's disease in susceptible people. Since MAP is known to be a primary specific cause of chronic inflammation of the intestine in many different species, including primates, it would be remarkable if it did not cause disease in humans." (John Hermon-Taylor, Professor, St. George's Medical School, London, England and a leading expert on Crohn's Disease).