What is Bovine Johne's Disease?

Bovine Johne’s Disease

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

Bovine Johne's Disease or BJD, is generally described as a chronic wasting disease that causes the condition of livestock including cattle and in particular dairy cattle, to significantly deteriorate and quickly lead to death.

BJD 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 Bovine Johne's Disease

The most common symptoms of Bovine Johne's Disease are:
  • Chronic diarrhoea
  • Bottle jaw (fluid swelling under lower jaw)
  • Progressive weight loss
  • Emaciation
  • Drop in milk production
Usually cattle are infected as calves but will not display symptoms until older. Some infected cattle will not display these signs at all but simply fail to reach productive potential.

Treatment of Bovine Johne's Disease

Bovine Johne's disease is considered incurable. However, Australia has noticeably low occurrences compared to other countries. This can be credited to effective prevention and management plans 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 including taking advantage of the Victorian Government Bovine JD Vaccine subsidy
  • 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 calves earlier


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