Plate on Johne’s dis­ease

Irish Independent - Farming - - FINANCE FARMING -

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.


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