Plate on Johne’s disease
of the BSE-scare that rocked the agriculture sector for years. In the meantime, the stigma surrounding Johne’s in herds continues.
Thousands of farmers are knowingly or unknowingly struggling to cope, with animal performance below par.
This isn’t confined to the poorest performers. Some dairy herds have struggled to contain the disease for over 20 years.
But we don’t hear much about it.
Nobody wants to admit that their cows are infected. Better just to muddle our way through it.
Maybe one way to sidestep all this nonsense is to reward farmers that take the initiative to prove that their herds are Johne’s-free.
We are forever castigating the processing industry for not paying premium prices for a premium product.
Instead, the dairy industry finds itself in a race to the bottom where bottom-feeders churn massive volumes of undifferentiated powders and fats for bargain basement prices.
Even with large chunks of our milk pool being targeted directly at the highest value products in the entire dairy portfolio — the infant milk formula sector — Irish farmers are still getting a price that is lower than their European colleagues and often similar to what Kiwi farmers pocket.
Surely a litre of guaranteed Johne’s-free milk is worth a premium in any market, but especially in the risk-phobic infant milk sector?
That premium could be used to subsidise the costs that farmers would incur to implement a Johne’s control programme.
This would be the basis of a real national control programme, not some kind of marketing wishful thinking.
Imagine if Ireland got the head-start on the rest of the global competition by establishing a world first of Johne’s-free milk. Now that would be something for our dairy marketeers to shout about.
Nobody is saying that it will be easy — Johne’s has proved to be a tricky one to nail. And farmers won’t be able to do it alone, but it can be done.
However, it will take real leadership, which will have to come from farmers themselves.
It’s time for the silent majority to step up... before it’s too late.
JOHNE’S DISEASE IS WORKING AWAY AND SPREADING 24 HOURS A DAY