Fermanagh agriculture: Johne’s disease is the subject of the Grassland Club’s annual meeting

The challenges of Johne’s disease in beef production were discussed with members of the Fermanagh Grassland Club by one of the leading authorities on the disease in Northern Ireland, Dr Sam Strain.

Dr Strain, who is chief executive of Animal Health and Welfare Northern Ireland, was the speaker at the club’s annual general meeting in December.

Johne’s disease is a contagious, chronic disease that primarily affects the small intestine of ruminants and which, according to Dr. Strain, can be difficult to control.

As a global disease, no country where it has been found has been able to eradicate it with control measures, the only feasible option available to farmers. If it gets out of control, the disease could put the farming business at risk.

Johne’s disease is manifested in dairy cows by decreased milk production, increased culling rates, diarrhea, weight loss and susceptibility to other diseases.

Dr Strain said breeding cows with Johne’s disease were half as likely to conceive when first inseminated, the calving interval would be on average 34 days longer and the number of cells somatic would be higher.

He advised farmers to reduce the incidence of the disease by adopting certain practices such as improving biosecurity, reducing faecal contamination in water or feed, keeping slurry equipment clean, particular from one farm to another. One of the biggest risks is animal movement.

Dr Strain said calving pens should be kept clean and hygienic and calves, especially those on dairy farms, should spend as little time as possible there.

He also talked about tests that have limitations.

Dr Strain, who is a member of an all-Ireland group looking at the implications of the disease, said farmers who are part of a Johne scheme can keep disease under control in their herd.

At the Club’s annual meeting, Secretary William Johnston reported on the loss of club meetings due to the pandemic, but in June 2021 Club member Robert Ketyle was one of four farmers from Northern Ireland featured in the British Grassland Society webinar. , organized in collaboration with the Ulster Grassland Society.

Despite the restrictions, the Vaughan Trust Grazing Competition and Barenbrug Silage Competition continued.

Outgoing President David Foster thanked Club members for their support.

The election of officers was as follows;

Chairman – Nigel Graham, Kinawley Dairy Farmer.

Vice President – Roland Graham, Enniskillen Beef Farmer.

Secretary – William Johnston

Treasurer – Philip Clarke

Committee Members – Alan Burleigh, Robin Clements, John Egerton, James Murphy, Alan Warnock and Trevor Dunn.

Jessica C. Bell