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Johne’s found in three per cent of cows in Sask. surveillance program

Health: News Roundup from the September 2017 issue of Canadian Cattlemen

a cow with Johne's disease

Saskatchewan’s Johne’s Disease Surveillance Program has been very successful in that voluntary participation by cow-calf producers has increased every year to the point where there has been a waiting list the last two years.

On the flip side, it has confirmed many participants’ fears of finding positive animals.

From November 2013 to March 2017, there have been roughly 400 (three per cent) positives among the 12,300 animals tested in 67 herds. Fifty of the 67 herds had at least one positive animal. The highest infection rate in a single herd was 25 per cent.

Dr. Wendy Wilkins, disease surveillance veterinarian with the Ministry of Agriculture, says these numbers don’t represent the overall prevalence of JD in Saskatchewan because most participants applied to the program knowing or suspecting that JD was present in their herds.

Nine producers didn’t know or suspect that JD was present but decided to have their herd tested to be sure. Two were sadly mistaken.

This would be more representative of the true situation in the province and likely Western Canada. The Western Canadian Cow-Calf Surveillance Network found at least one positive cow in 23 per cent of herds examined. Overall, 1.5 per cent of the cows were positive.

Producers have been able to apply to test up to 250 head every second year in the Saskatchewan program.

One producer who participated three times found 18 positives in 2013, four in 2014, and nine in 2016. Another found one in 2013, none in 2014, and three in 2016.

This suggests eliminating JD from a herd is a long-term commitment that takes time to sort out, Wilkins says. The recommended strategy is to test and cull positive individuals and their calves, but to manage the disease as a herd problem.

Funding through Growing Forward 2 is limited to $74,000 per year and applicants are accepted on a first-come, first-served basis. The program covers lab fees, and the cost of having a vet out one time to collect blood, and another $500 consulting with a veterinarian on risk assessment and management planning.

The program ends in March 2018; however, the Ministry of Agriculture supports continuing the work and will be submitting a proposal for funding in the new Canadian Agricultural Partnership.

The Saskatchewan Stock Growers Association administers the program and more information on JD, the surveillance program and how to apply is available at

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