The challenges of Johne’s Disease in cattle production has been discussed with members of 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 Annual General Meeting of the Club in December.

Johne's disease is a contagious, chronic, disease that affects primarily the small intestine of ruminants which Dr. Strain says 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 open to farmers. If it gets out of control, the disease could put the farm business in jeopardy.

Johne’s Disease manifests itself in dairy cows by depressed milk production, increased cull rates, diarrhea and weight loss and susceptibility to other diseases.

Dr. Strain said that breeding cows with Johne’s Disease were half as likely to conceive in their first insemination, the calving interval will be on average 34 days longer and somatic cell counts will be higher.

He advised farmers to reduce the incidence of the disease by adopting certain practices such as improving biosecurity, reducing the contamination of faeces in water or feed, keeping slurry equipment clean, especially from farm to farm. One of the greatest risks is by animal movements.

Dr Strain said that the calving pens must be kept clean and hygienic and calves, especially those on dairy farms should spend their least amount of time there.

He also discussed testing which has limitations.

Dr, Strain, who is a member of an All-Ireland group examining the disease implications, said farmers who are part of a Johne's programme can keep control of the disease in their herd.

At the annual meeting of the Club, the secretary, William Johnston reported on the loss of club meetings due to the pandemic however in June 2021, a Club member, Robert Kettyle, was one of four Northern Ireland farmers featured on the British Grassland Society's webinar, held in conjunction with Ulster Grassland Society.

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

The outgoing Chairman, David Foster, thanked the Club members for their support.

The election of officers was as follows;

Chairman - Nigel Graham, a dairy farmer from Kinawley.

Vice-Chairman - Roland Graham, beef farmer from Enniskillen.

Secretary - William Johnston

Treasurer - Philip Clarke

Committee members - Alan Burleigh, Robin Clements, John Egerton, James Murphy, Alan Warnock and Trevor Dunn.