Letter to the Editor
The National Animal Identification System (NAIS) started a no-win war for the USDA. On February 5, 2010, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced that NAIS was flawed and would be terminated, never to return. Now, and even when it was announced as dead, a new-name, Animal Disease Traceability Program is full throttle. ADT is a clone sister to NAIS!
Dislike for the old NAIS program has multiplied daily by clans of all flavors.
It is easy to quote the bad results of the National Livestock Identification System (NLIS) of Australia, the total costs on livestock producers, enforcement fees, and serious concerns about individual property rights.
As USDA marches stone-faced onward for 100% compliance on the repackaged, ADT, livestock producers strapped for cash fear the worst.
A prime selling point by USDA is the importance to move fast in case of an outbreak of some new foreign or unknown livestock disease. At first blush it sounds compassionate, until facts reveal that the industry already has a major epidemic on US dairy farms, and the USDA has proven for years to have little concern to stop it. Is there a tunip truck-load of hypocrisy showing between the lines?
The Disease USDA Refuses to Trace.
In 2004 the USDA estimated the Johne’s infection rate to be at 20%. Today, reliable estimates reveal over 60% of the nation’s dairy herds are comingled with Johne’s positive cows, a 300% increase in only four years, but the USDA doesn’t feel this is a problem. The USDA appears comfortable with this major epidemic, and has no plan for acceleration about the problem. The USDA estimates an annual financial loss as a result of Johne’s in dairy herds to be $200,000,000. For one year the Johne’s loss is nearly as much as USDA has invested in grants promoting NAIS. This annual loss is more than 1000% over the eradication costs of the US Avian Influenza fiasco, a statistic USDA tossed out to tout the serious need of an NAIS mandatory system.
USDA is not totally avoiding Johne’s. A token budget is allocated for research, public awareness and press releases on how to manage a dairy with Johne’s. The amount of that budget was reduced in the recent Farm Bill — now it is just peanuts!
If the USDA is concerned about (any) disease, why aren’t they shaking their fist at Johne’s? Sometimes USDA pays less attention to animal diseases that do not effect human health. Perhaps that is not so — reliable information connects Johne’s with the human disease, Crohn’s. Crohn’s Disease, virtually unheard of a few years ago, is on the rise. Today, up to two million US citizens are infected. Crohn’s Disease can be diagnosed in children, who will suffer a life of pain. The stark similarities of each disease causes knowledgeable scientist to be certain that once bovine Johne’s is eliminated, the same process can be effective to solve the human coequal.
How to Spot a Problem?
The signs of Johne’s Disease in cattle are closely related to Crohn’s Disease in humans:
- Frequent diarrhea
- Cramps and pains in stomach
- Feces blood
- No stamina
- Internal bleeding
- No appetite, fever
- Intestine Obstructions
- Internal pain and abscesses
There is no known cure for Johne’s or Crohn’s. Some medical assistance is available for people.
Johne’s signs of death in cattle is a slow withering away of all body condition in the final stages.
Where does Johne’s Come From?
Johne’s is contracted by ingesting feces from infected animals. Animals who are raised on clean grass pastures seldom get infected. Dairy herds are often contained with beef cattle herds to provide a more diverse farm income. Many beef herds with Johne’s have traced their infected stock back to dairy raised purchases. Today Johne’s is found in beef herds, yet with much lower percentages than dairies. It is rapidly consuming highly productive dairy cows.
If the USDA and corporate proponents of the old NAIS felt disease was important, they’d at least exhibit a good faith effort about Johne’s. The most costly disease of our generation has the USDA urgency of watching paint dry. USDA’s rubber neck avoidance of Johne’s shows one of the most shameful milk-toast approaches to disease eradication in USDA history.
What is the answer?
Like other diseases, only two things are needed to permanently deal with Johne’s, one fool-proof vaccination and one fool-proof negative/positive test method. At this time neither appear to be a consideration much less a priority to USDA. USDA is totally consumed in promoting NAIS, or now ADT.
Tracing Infected Herds?
Is locating infected herds a problem with Johne’s? If it was announced that a vaccine and a valid test method has been developed, cattle owners would stampede to use it. USDA will not have any problem locating herds. The owners of infected cattle are always the first to be concerned and promptly deal with health issues. If USDA does their job, the concern of premises location is a mute point, and always has been.
As long as USDA procrastinates on a good-faith attempt to deal with Johne’s disease, anything they say about their “come hell or high water” new ADT enforcement is totally and completely bogus! It will be impossible to convince livestock producers that the new ADT enforcement will do a “gnats bristle” of good to eliminate disease when Johne’s is not considered a priority USDA issue.
Until USDA can get their priorities straight, producers should not believe USDA will do better tracing disease with the quackery of a costly ADT enforcement.
Quotes and data provided by USDA, Gary McEntyre DVM, NAFAW, Countryside, Peggy Steward, Dr. Max Thornsberry, Brad Headtel, Jerri, Darol Dickinson, and Jim Silwa. Thank you for contributing.