2014-04-22   facebook twitter rss

Welsh Black Johne’s Control Provides Template

The control of the debilitating Johne’s Disease in the Welsh Black Cattle breed serves as a template for other breeds to follow, according to the Society’s President Bruce Lawson.

Mr Lawson FRAgS, a retired senior partner at a Dolgellau veterinary practice, is veterinary advisor to the Welsh Black Cattle Society and has co-ordinated the battle against Johne’s since 2000. He says a big factor in reducing the incidence of the chronic wasting disease is commitment to a firm plan of action.

Welsh Black Cattle Society President Bruce Lawson

Welsh Black Cattle Society President
Bruce Lawson

Mr Lawson, who is President of the Society in recognition of his work, said: “I am full of praise for the way Welsh Black breeders have embraced the Johne's disease control scheme and proud of the success that they have achieved. The result is that 95% of all the cattle entered into the Welsh Black pedigree sales in 2012 were accredited to risk level 1 for Johne's disease.

“The Welsh Black is numerically a fairly small breed, compared to something like the Limousins and so, suddenly, the effect of the disease became more obvious. One herd would be selling cattle to a lot of other herds and spreading it.

“The same has happened in other breeds, but it was very noticeable in the Welsh Blacks and we were getting complaints in Council. So they were determined to do something about it.

“If you’re selling breeding stock, I think the time has come today where you should be participating (in the scheme) because purchasers who have been bitten before don’t want to buy stock in that are carrying Johne’s disease.”

Mr Lawson’s work with the Society has been geared to reducing the spread of the disease from herd to herd, to controlling it within infected herds and to identifying clean herds. The risk-based approach grades herds on a scale of 1 (lowest risk) to 5 (highest risk) in terms of infection.

Herds need to have three clear consecutive annual tests of all animals of two years and older in order to gain Level 1 status, with the lowest risk of selling infected stock. Level 2 herds have had one or more clear herd tests, with Levels 3 & 4 depending upon the number of reactors in the herd while Level 5 herds are those that don’t have a health plan in place or are not participating, so posing the greatest risk of Johne’s disease.

Mr Lawson says he considers that at least 40% of herds in Britain are carrying Johne’s Disease. An animal could look perfectly well while incubating the disease, then the stress of moving to a new farm would bring the animal down, seeding Johne’s in the new herd.

The condition is not thought to be hereditary, although newly born calves tend to be very susceptible. The MAP, the Mycobacterium paratuberculosis bacteria, is shed in the faeces, can be found in the colostrum and in the milk and can be passed through the uterus via the placenta, making the newborn or unborn calf very susceptible.

The best control combined testing and culling, with husbandry and hygiene improvements, such as cleanliness at calving, and protecting calves from contaminated feed and water. Winter and autumn calving could be an issue in that calves have to be kept in longer in an often dirty environment.

Welsh Black Cattle Society Chairman, Robert Jones, said Bruce Lawson had been made a President of the Society in recognition of the strategy he had devised with the Society to control Johne’s Disease. He said his own late father, William Tudor Jones, had initiated the scheme and now all cattle sold at the pedigree sales are from participating herds and about 90% are at Risk Level 1.

He added: “There was a dire need to do something about the disease. It’s been a wonderful initiative and we are happy and proud to think that other breeds are following us.”

Meanwhile Mr Lawson’s work with the Welsh Black breed has a certain synchronicity. His parents’ farm in Fife was sold to a noted Scottish Welsh Black breeder, Mr R E Gordon, and his wife, Catherine’s, Anglesey grandfather, Thomas Muir, was featured in the first volume of the Welsh Black Herd book in 1905.

Then of course, his Dolgellau practice was situated in the heart of Welsh Black country, providing a rich research resource in Bruce Lawson’s daily working life. He says it’s an honour and a delight to serve as the Society’s President.

Welsh Black Cattle Society

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