Johne’s disease is an infectious wasting condition of cattle and other ruminants caused by Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis (Map). The disease progressively damages the intestines of affected animals and can eventually result in severe weight loss, loss of condition and infertility.

Through the main UK milk recording organisations there are now thousands of herds across the UK that have the necessary routine data at the individual animal level. While there are growing numbers of examples where herds have brought the disease down to low levels, the routine interpretation and use of these data by vets and farmers has been sporadic and often the existing data are under-utilised, in part because of a lack of know-how. Improving the use and demonstrating the value of existing data has potential to enhance farmer decision-making with respect to Johne’s disease control at the farm level. Recruitment to Johne’s control programmes can be hampered by the associated costs of whole herd testing. Novel herd level testing that provides farmers with a simple, cost-effective means of identifying infection or providing assurance of infection freedom would greatly improve herd engagement in control programmes. Preliminary evidence from other countries suggests that farm environmental sampling may provide an effective way of identifying infected herds (Lavers, 2013). However this approach has not been validated within the UK context.

Our multi-disciplinary project aims to make use of existing data sources by bringing together experts, vet practices, and farmers, whilst also trialling environmental sampling for risk assessments with the aim of enhancing Johne’s Disease control. Subsequently, in the next phase after the 12 months, these data will be used to develop prediction models and a practical and cost-effective surveillance tool for Johne’s risk assessment at the herd level.

Contact details:

Dr David Rose


Royal Agricultural University