What is Ovine Johne's Disease (OJD)?

Ovine Johne's Disease (OJD)

Are your sheep wasting away, suffering bottle jaw or diarrhoea?
These are all common symptoms of Ovine Johne's Disease.

Ovine Johne's Disease or OJD, is generally described as a chronic wasting disease that causes the condition of livestock, including sheep and goats, to significantly deteriorate and quickly lead to death.

OJD is caused by the resilient bacterium Mycobacterium paratuberculosis which lives in the animal's intestine but can also survive in other conditions. This bacteria results in a thickening of the intestinal wall which limits and prevents the absorption of food and nutrients. Despite continuing to eat, the infected animal eventually wastes away, essentially starving to death.

Symptoms of Ovine Johne’s Disease:

Ovine Johne's Disease is often described as the 'silent but costly disease' given its tendency to show no sign in the early years meaning contamination of both the flock and pasture occurs extensively before being noticed.

A common sign is:

An obvious 'tail'; several sheep in very poor condition that begin dying, gradually eroding flock numbers and profits.

Infected sheep will usually keep drinking and eating as normal until they deteriorate to the point that they are too weak to and will die.

Treatment of Ovine Johne's Disease

OJD is considered incurable. However, Australia has markedly low occurrences compared to other countries. This can be credited to effective prevention and management plans employed by both governments and farmers.

Some ideas include:
  • Developing and implementing an on-farm strategy to help recognise the early stages to prevent spreading and further loss.
  • Developing and implementing a farm bio-security plan to restrict strains of the bacterium Mycobacterium paratuberculosis
  • Developing and implementing a vaccination plan for stock
  • Developing and implementing a grazing management plan i.e. Restricting co-grazing where practical
  • Ensuring animals purchased have an animal health statement and purchasing only low-risk stock
  • Weaning lambs earlier


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