Johnes Disease

Johnes Disease is a serious wasting disease that affects cattle, sheep, goats, deer and alpacas. Two main strains of the disease exist. The sheep strain affects sheep and goats whilst the bovine or cattle strain affects cattle, goats, deer and alpacas.

sheepIn cattle, Bovine Johnes Disease (BJD) causes severe chronic diarrhoea with progressive weight loss leading to bottle jaw and death. The affected animals are normally infected with the causative bacteria (Mycobacterium paratuberculosis) as calves and may shed the bacteria in their faeces for years before breaking down with the clinical disease. Because of the long lag time between infection and clinical disease, and the lack of an accurate and quick test, BJD has been a very difficult disease to control or eradicate. Luckily, much of Australia is free from BJD but in Victoria the disease is endemic or very common in dairy herds, although the incidence within herds may be quite low.

Animal Health Australia, in consultation with the dairy and beef industries, have developed National Guidelines and Standard Definitions and Rules to allow herds and individual animals to be allocated a BJD Score. This BJD Score is based on the property and herd Johnes disease status, and whether the herd is involved in a Johnes Disease Calf Accreditation Program (JDCAP), a Test and Control Program (TCP3) or a Market Assurance Program (CattleMAP). The BJD score ranges from 0 – 10 where a non-assessed herd has a score of 0 and a MN3 herd, a herd that has been on the CattleMAP program with negative two yearly blood testing from appropriate cattle over a period of six years, having a BJD score of 10.

Most beef studs who wish to sell their bulls to commercial breeders or who hope to sell cattle interstate will certainly need to be on the CattleMAP program. For commercial dairy farmers whose herds are known to be infected with BJD, the Test and Control Program (TCP3) is available to provide funding for the blood testing of the herd and for audited calf rearing practises to be instigated. For herds whose status is non-assessed, the subsidised JDCAP program is available to provide farmers with the opportunity to set up audited calf rearing practices that will prevent or at least minimise the spread of BJD if it is indeed present unknowingly in the herd.

BJD Score Chart


Herd Status

BJD Score









Test and Control











Infected or Suspect

Inf or Susp





Calves born under the JDCAP program are entitled to an extra three points over and above the herd status. So for example, for a herd that is on the TCP3 test and control program and has a status of TLP (tested low prevalence), that herd would have a BJD score of 4. However, as this herd would also be on the JDCAP program as a pre-requisite for the TCP3 program, the calves born under the JDCAP program would be entitled to three extra points bringing those calves up to a BJD score of 7, which is the maximum score for individual animals, without entering the CattleMAP program. For non-assessed herds participating in the JDCAP program the calves brought up under the program would have a BJD score of 3.

Maffra Veterinary Centre has trained and accredited veterinarians who are happy and willing to assist any farmers wishing to participate in any of these Johnes Disease Programs, or who require any other information regarding any aspect of Johnes Disease prevention or management.

Sale Veterinary centre

  • Address: 262 York Street, Sale
  • Telephone: (03)5144 3100
  • Fax: (03)5144 5968
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Gippsland Equine Hospital

  • Address: 31 Beet Road, Maffra
  • Telephone: (03)5147 1008
  • Fax: (03)5141 1439
  • Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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