More than 1,800 farmers will have signed up to Animal Health Ireland’s (AHI) Johne’s disease control programme by mid-March.

Additional funding for the programme, amounting to €250k from the Department of Agriculture, was announced recently and AHI says it is expecting an increase in farmer participation.

Speaking recently Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney said one of the most importance components of AHI’s Johne’s disease control programme is a veterinary on-farm risk assessment and management advisory visits.

“The objective of which is to provide a framework for the herd owner and his/her nominated veterinary practitioner to identify any farm practices that might constitute a risk of introduction or spread of Johne’s disease within the farm,” he said.

The assessment is carried out by an approved veterinary practitioner in partnership with the herd owner and examines five elements of farm management, namely 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 the farmer agree number of practicable management changes with a view to mitigating those risks identified.

Concluding, the minister said: “The pilot programme has  already had a successful take-up in 2013 and the further funding that I am now announcing will enable a significant additional number of farmers to take part in a programme that has clear benefits in terms of the planned expansion of the dairy sector and in meeting the Food Harvest 2020 target.”

Meanwhile, AHI is keen to advise that the closing date for farmers to enrol in the Johne’s disease pilot programme is 14 March.

Some 11 vet training courses took place in 2013 for on-farm risk assessment, where 190 vets completed the course with a farmer participation rate of 1,500. More training is now set for 2014.