The Minister for Agriculture Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney has announced further support of €260,000 for the AHI co-ordinated and managed Johne’s Disease pilot control programme.

Making this announcement, the Minister said that “the money will go towards meeting the cost of a further on-farm risk assessment of up to 1,700 farmers already participating in the programme and will provide for an on-farm risk assessment in respect of up to 300 new entrants to the programme”.

The assessment is carried out by the veterinary practitioner in partnership with the herdowner and examines five elements of farm management: animal movement history, calf management, heifer management, cow management and management of the calving cow.

Having identified the on-farm risks, the veterinary practitioner and farmer agree a number of practicable management changes with a view to mitigation of those risks identified.

Analysis of the results from the early period of the Johne’s Disease pilot programme in late 2013/2014 has demonstrated the value of the risk assessment element of the programme.

The ultimate aim of this pilot programme is to establish a voluntary national programme for Johne’s Disease which enables participating herd owners to demonstrate the absence of this disease from the majority of herds and, where disease is found to provide a programme that will control and ultimately remove the disease from that farm, thus underpinning the quality of Irish dairy produce in the market place.

The Minister also said that the work being undertaken as part of this final phase of this pilot initiative will guide the future Irish Johne’s Disease programme.

“In this respect, I am urging industry to continue its good work towards establishing the best programme possible to suit its own future needs.”

The Minister acknowledged the ongoing efforts at farm level where participating farmers and their milk processors will both contribute by way of paying for the testing involved. It is anticipated that funding under the Rural Development Plan’s Target Advisory Service will provide ongoing support at farm level in future years.

“It is an exciting time for the dairy sector with the milk quota shackles removed after 31 years and initiatives like this are critical in terms of expanding dairy exports in the years ahead.”