Bovine Johne's Disease

Bovine Johne’s Disease (BJD) is a chronic, incurable disease of adult cattle caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium paratuberculosis. Symptoms include diarrhoea, reduced milk production, weight loss and eventually death. The disease is mainly spread through ingestion of contaminated faeces. Infection is usually acquired in calfhood but generally no clinical signs are seen until animals are at least four years old. It is difficult to reliably detect infection in live animals, particularly in the early stages of the disease.

Preventing exposure of susceptible young calves, introducing only low-risk cattle and targeted testing and culling of animals to reduce shedding of Mycobacterium paratuberculosis into the environment are the keys to controlling spread in a herd.

The Australian dairy industry is committed to controlling the spread and limiting the impact of BJD. Our vision is to increase awareness and understanding of this disease and to have all farmers implement measures to control the risks posed by BJD.

Managing the risk in Australian dairy herds

Understanding more about BJD and how to manage the risk is an first important step in dealing with the disease. Whether you want to be part of a formal control program or to just minimise the risks in your own herd, there are many things that can be done.

More information

These publications contain important information and guidelines for best practice:

Dairy farm guidelines for BJD control: Best practice recommendations for managing bovine Johne’s disease in Australian dairy herds (PDF, 1.1MB)

A booklet for dairy farmers containing best practice recommendations for managing BJD in Australia.

Dairy BJD Technotes: Best practice recommendations for managing bovine Johne’s disease in Australian dairy herds (PDF, 4.1MB)

A technical booklet for veterinarians and herd advisers discussing best practice recommendations for managing BJD in Australia.

New approach to Bovine Johnes Disease (PDF, 144KB)

Dairy strategies to manage BJD.

BJD control programs for Australian dairy herds

The control of BJD in Australia is implemented according to a strategic plan. The dairy industry is promoting the use of the National Dairy BJD Assurance Score and adoption of hygienic calf rearing practices through the 3-Step Calf Plan and/or the Johne’s Disease Calf Accreditation Program (JDCAP).

1. The 3-Step Calf Plan

Limiting calf contact with adult cattle and sources of manure minimises the risk of BJD and many other diseases including calf scours. This is the basis of the 3-Step Calf Plan. Implementing the 3-Step Calf Plan is an excellent way to reduce the risk of BJD in a herd and improve the overall health of calves.

3 Step Calf Plan 

More information

3 Steps to minimise BJD risk in your herd (PDF, 1167KB)

All dairy companies have included the 3-Step Calf Plan in their on-farm quality assurance programs to support BJD control and good calf health. This brochure explains in more detail the three steps to minime BJD risk in your herd and other best practice recommendations.

2. Johne’s Disease Calf Accreditation Program (JDCAP)

JDCAP is an audited calf rearing program designed to minimise the risk of spreading BJD in Victorian dairy herds, should it be present, from adult cattle to calves. Calves raised under an accredited rearing system have a lower risk of contracting BJD than non-accredited calves. More information is available from the Agriculture Victoria website.

National Dairy BJD Assurance Score (Dairy Score)

The Dairy Score allows dairy farmers to compare the risk of BJD in groups of cattle when they are buying or selling stock. A herd’s Dairy Score takes into account the location of the herd and the BJD history of a property, including management practices, laboratory test results, enrolment in BJD assurance or control programs. Cattle with a higher Dairy Score are considered to be a lower risk of having BJD.

Dairy Score FAQs

More information

What's the score with BJD? (PDF, 2364KB)

This brochure provides an introduction to Dairy Score, and includes a reckoner which can be used  for individual animals.

Pathways to progress with Bovine Johne's Disease (PDF, 1274KB)

A technical booklet for veterinarians and herd advisers describing the National Dairy BJD Assurance Score with answers to frequently asked questions.

Dairy BJD Assurance Score Declaration Form (PDF, 289KB)

This form is used to to make an official declaration of your herd BJD Assurance Score.

External links

The following information may prove useful to understanding more about BJD and how it is being managed in Australia and overseas.

Australian BJD information:

International Links on BJD: