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Effect of compliance with recommended calf-rearing practices on control of bovine Johne's disease



Objective To assess the degree of compliance with recommended management procedures for the control of bovine Johne's disease and study the relationship between aspects of calf management and testing/disease outcomes in the herds.

Procedure Fifty-four south Gippsland dairy herds participating in the Victorian bovine Johne's disease test and control program were visited between July and November 2002 and an audit of calf rearing practices was conducted. The results of testing completed under the program were analysed for each of the herds. Twenty seven management factors were examined for a relationship with the presence of clinical cases of Johne's disease or cattle with positive ELISA test results that were born after the completion of the second whole herd test. Logistic regression was used to examine the strength of relationships between the management practices and the frequency with which new cases of Johne's disease arose.

Results and conculsions Calves were removed from their dams within 12 hours of birth in only 17 (31.5%) of the herds. However, in all but one herd the calves were removed within 24 hours of birth. In 42 herds (77.8%) calf rearing facilities were adequately separated from adult cattle and the faeces from adult cattle. In 41 herds (75.9%) calves up to the age of 12 months were grazed on paddocks that were free of manure or effluent from adult cattle. However, in only 10 (18.5%) of the herds were all three of these calf management practices applied. Feeding whole milk containing antibiotic residues, or providing water for calves from birth, were found to have statistically significant associations with an increased occurrence of cases of bovine Johne's disease in the study herds. The practice of allowing cows to calve in a paddock was found to be associated with reduced occurrence of bovine Johne's disease. These associations were still found after analysis that included herd size, the number of clinical cases that had occurred in the herds before the start of testing, the number of animals with positive ELISA tests that were detected at the first test and the number of years of participation in the test and cull program. Early separation of newborn calves from cows and grazing calves under 12 months of age in areas free of adult cattle were not found to be protective against Johne's disease.