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JOHNE'S INFORMATION CENTER - University of Wisconsin Ñ School of Veterinary Medicine
University of Wisconsin - School of Veterinary MedicineUniversity of Wisconsin - School of Veterinary Medicine


Control is easy, it just takes time.


(Updated 3/2010)

Johne's disease can be controlled and even eliminated from infected herds, however, it takes athorough understanding of thedisease by animal owners, consultation with a veterinarian, and requires use of one or more of the available diagnostic tests. Half-hearted attempts to control Johne's disease will generally fail. Control of Johne's disease also takes time and a strong commitment to management practices focused on keeping young animals away from contaminated manure, milk, water, etc. A typical herd clean up program may take 5 years or longer.Faster clean up programs are possible, but they are usually more expensive. The basics of control are simple: new infections must be prevented, and animals with the infection must be identified and removed from the herd.


Dairies can control Johne’s disease in the herd with two steps: #1 stop new infections from occurring in calves, and #2 eliminate the source of infection.

This takes time but can  significantly reduce, if not eliminate, the infection.

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Photo of maternity pen

A computer simulation model illustrates howgraph of Johnes control programsJohne's control takes time and how faster Johne's control can be accomplished by both changing calf rearing procedures and testing the adult herd to identify and cull the infectious cows. Of these two basic strategies, changing heifer management to limit the chance of calves becoming infected (swallowing the organism) is the most important. This web page will describe in more detail how to implement these two basic techniques for Johne's disease control in dairy herds.

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header #1 prevent new infection by

. . . manure management

The largest number of MAP bacteria excreted by infected cows are in the feces (manure). Farm sanitation and control over where manure goes on a farm are critical to control of Johne's disease. Because of the susceptibility of calves to MAP infection, it is important to keep them well away from feces of cows that may harbor the infection. The longer separation of young stock and adults can be maintained the better. For dairy cattle, the minimum time for complete separation is the first 6 months of life, the "window" of maximum susceptibility.

Calves should be born in a clean dry environment with minimal fecal contamination. Prompt removal of calves from their dam is recommended not only for control of Johne's disease, but for several other dairy cattle diseases as well.  A recent study of 9 dairy herds participating in a Johne’s control program found that the one of the most challenging aspects was maintaining uncontaminated maternity pens.  Individual calving pens are optimal, but not feasible for many herds.  Instead, designate test-negative and test-positive pens (you could test all your cows at dry-off to have this test information available).  At least try to remove calves to an area outside the pen free of adult manure contamination (“the safe zone”) within two hours of birth.

Liquid manureManure contamination of feed by use of dirty feeding equipment should be avoided. Also, manure contamination of water supplies, particularly ponds or streams that heifers can drink from, must be avoided to limit spread of the infection. If you use water troughs, when cleaning them remove the sediment at the bottom and dump it away from where animals might graze – MAP apparently survives for a long time in this substrate.

Pasture contamination with MAP is theoretically important as a means of infection transmission, but is less likely than other modes of transmission and far more difficult to control. Till contaminated pastures and wait for time and environmental conditions (repeated changes in temperature, minimize shaded soil by cutting grass/crops/shrubs) to kill off MAP on fields. While a majority of the organisms die within three months, a small population can remain for up to a year.  Put off stocking contaminated pasture with young animals as long as feasible. Read about survival of MAP in the environment in the "Biology of MAP" section of this site.

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. . . milk and colostrum management

Many animals infected with MAP will excrete the bacterium in their milk. This happens most often in cows showing clinical signs of Johne's disease, but also occurs in infected animals that appear healthy. Because no diagnostic test can detect all infected animals on a single herd test, to control Johne's disease it is best if feeding of raw milk, sometimes called waste milk, and natural nursing can be avoided. Artificial milk replacers are considered free of  MAP because of the way they are processed. Some sponsors of this website sell milk replacer products. Please visit the sponsor page to learn more about available products.

A safe and effective alternative to using milk replacers is to pasteurize waste milk on the farm.  A recent study saw no difference in the number of new cases of Johne’s disease arising in dairy herds between those that pasteurized and those that used milk replacer (Recommended protocols: 145°F (63°C) for 30 minutes for batch pasteurization, or 162°F (72°C) for 15 seconds for flash pasteurization.  The milk should be stirred or otherwise in motion to ensure even heat distribution.) Pasteurization kills virtually all MAP that may contaminate raw milk as well as other viral and bacterial agents that could affect the health of dairy heifer replacements. Some sponsors of this website sell on-farm pasteurizers. Please visit the sponsor page to learn more about available products.

Colostrum, the antibody-rich milk produced by mothers the first few days after giving birth, also can contain MAP. Because colostrum is critical to the health and survival of newborns, feeding of colostrum must be done. Many dairies do not collect and store colostrum sufficiently carefully to minimize contamination. However, the risk of transmitting MAP infections in colostrum can be minimized by following these three simple rules:

1. only use colostrum from Johne's test-negative animals.
2. do not pool colostrum from multiple animals.
3. thoroughly cleaning the udder and teats before collection of colostrum. 

Pasteurization of colostrum is technically a fourth alternative. However, the thick viscous nature of colostrum makes it very difficult to pasteurize and so for practical reasons it is not advised.

Excellent sources of information on calf management in print form can be found in the "Articles and Brochures" section of this website. Three articles in particular can help you become a better calf raiser:

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. . . culling offspring of infected mothers

MAP infections can be transmitted from mothers to offspring by contact with the mother's infected feces, through infected colostrum or milk from the mother, or across the placenta into the fetus before the calf is born. Depending on the extent to which manure management and milk/colostrum management recommendations listed above can be implemented, there is a moderate to high probability that calves born to MAP-infected mothers will acquire the infection. Consequently, on a case by case basis, it may be wise to cull offspring born to infected mothers. If not culled, it may take two or more years to determine if the young animal became infected, and this will be time lost in pursuit of control or eradication of the MAP in the herd.

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#2 Identify and remove infected animals

Test-and-cull program

The majority of MAP infections in a herd are "invisible". Cows with clinical signs of Johne's disease, diarrhea and weight loss, are only a small fraction of the truly infected animals. The infection has the ability to silently spread from cows to calves long before signs of illness in infected animals are evident. For this reason, laboratory tests are important to determine which cows are infected. Test-positive cows are generally those most likely to be infectious (excreting MAP in milk and manure) and so they should be removed, or at least isolated from, the herd.

Referred to as a test-and-cull program, this practice is essential to successful control of Johne's disease in herds in a reasonable period of time. Clearly, there are situations where alternatives must be considered: testing and culling of all test-positive animals is not necessarily always required. For instance, some control programs retain cows with low or medium-level ELISA results to generate milk income but these cows clearly tagged and are strictly managed since they are almost certainly shedding MAP on the premises in their manure as well as in their milk. Farmers report that knowing the Johne’s test status of a cow affects when the cow is culled if she develops any other health problems or if her milk production drops. Decisions on how best to implement testing in a Johne's control program should be made in consultation with a veterinarian. For details about available laboratory tests for Johne's disease, see the diagnosis section of this web site.

Sponsors of this website selling diagnostic products for Johne's disease are listed in the Sponsor section of this website.

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MAP is resistant to most disinfectants; washable tools, troughs, and feed dishes may be treated as directed on the bottle with a disinfectant labeled as “tuberculocidal”. Since organic material deactivates the disinfectant, items should thoroughly cleaned with soap and water, rinsed and dried before the disinfectant is applied. Tuberculocidal disinfectants usually contain strong chemical compounds and should be used carefully. The instructions provided on the label for proper use and safe handling should be followed precisely.

Sponsors of this website selling disinfectants that kill mycobacteria like MAP for Johne's disease are listed in the Sponsor section of this website.

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Two vaccines exist for Johne's disease; one is made from killed MAP and the other from live, but not capable of causing disease (avirulent) MAP. Only the killed product is available in the U.S. It is produced by Ft. Dodge Animal Health and sold by Solvay Animal Health under the trade name Mycopar®. Most published information concerns the killed vaccine and comments here are restricted to that product.

The U.S. vaccine is only licensed for use in calves less than 30 days old. It will decrease the frequency of cows that develop clinical Johne's disease: diarrhea and weight loss. It will not change the rate that cattle get infected. Studies in The Netherlands have shown that herd owners who follow the recommended management changes to control Johne's disease will be as successful, if not more successful than those who use the vaccine.

Except under unusual circumstances for herds with very high infection rates, the authors of this website do not recommend use of the vaccine for Johne's disease.

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Articles on Johne's control

Visit the Articles and Brochures section of this website There you can find several excellent articles that you can download and print. They summarize Johne's disease programs and describe real world stories of how farmers are successfully controlling this disease.

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