Paul Burden and David Hall from the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Calgary, Canada reported on the variations in the profitability of dairy farms in Victoria, Australia by different levels of engagement in bovine Johne’s disease control. Their publication appears in the January 2021 issue of Preventive Veterinary Medicine. Unfortunately, the article is not open access.
Paratuberculosis or Johne’s disease (JD) prevalence in Australia is low at the cow-level with varying herd-level prevalence. Control strategies incorporating vaccination are limited, suggesting opportunities for changes in regulatory oversight. In order to study this further, we examined the economic benefits of participation in JD control programmes in Australia with and without vaccination as well as knowledge, attitudes, and practices (KAP) relating to JD.
We used an online questionnaire to gather information describing demographics and KAP from 71 Australian dairy farms. Data from fully completed questionnaires from 32 farms in Victoria, Australia combined with cost and revenue data averaged from several years of the Dairy Farm Monitor Project were used to then simulate a larger robust dataset. These production data informed the simulation model to establish farm profitability. A partial farm budget was then developed to estimate the benefits of engaging in JD control activities. Respondents who stated they participated in JD control programmes gained an additional $43.80/cow/year net income (profit) compared to non-participants. Respondents also using a JD vaccine gained an additional $35.84/cow/year over non-users; this represents $10.56/cow/year over and above the average producer in the industry. However, we also noted that there clearly exists a barrier between farmers stated intentions to participate and actual participation in JD control activities.
These significant differences in net income realized by farms using different approaches to JD control (in this case, adoption of vaccination) offer a starting point from which to explore questions of how much farmers would be willing to pay for control activities, why they are willing to pay, and the likelihood of participating. Communication of the benefits of participation needs to improve to bridge this gap between farmers stated intentions and their actions.
Simulation modelling suggests increased profitability from participation in JD control programs and vaccination in Australia. The JD regulatory policies of other countries may benefit from the Australian experience with JD control.
Vaccination for JD is not an option in many countries of the world, but other Johne’s disease control measures can be done everywhere. Other studies have also shown that JD control improves dairy farm profitability (Roche, Journal of Dairy Science, 2020).
These are the simple steps proven to achieve JD control (see Collins et al. Successful control of Johne’s disease in nine dairy herds: Results of a six-year field trial. J. Dairy Sci, 2010):
- Step #1: have your herd veterinarian do a herd risk assessment to determine which management practices to change in order to limit MAP transmission on the farm.
- Step #2: Implement the necessary management changes with written protocols.
- Step #3: Develop a testing plan with your herd veterinarian coupled to a written “action plan” outlining what will be done with cows based on their JD test results.
JD control is not hard, it simply requires a well-developed plan that is consistently followed for at least 5 years. As the publication by Burden and Hall shows, these actions will significantly improve farm profitability. So, why not do it?