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Author Topic: Johne's disease?  (Read 552 times)

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
Johne's disease?
« on: October 10, 2020, 08:12:38 pm »
Anyone got any experience of Johne's disease in sheep?

I think (hope) that actually our skinny Zwart will recover her condition, but we are still treating her as under suspicion of having Johne's until she really clearly improves.

This all began, this time around, when our one remaining Zwart ewe, usually an excellent producer of twins, lost a lot of condition over summer.  She was rearing Shetland x lambs, so not having to work that hard, and running with the other lambed ewes on good grass all summer.  We lambed 3-4 weeks later this year, late April, so that there would be plenty of grass for the ewes to make milk and - if the weather played ball, which it did - we wouldn't have to cake them until the grass came in, as we had had to do several times in the past, when lambing late March.

So, Gwenneth, usually an excellent sheep, keeping decent condition while producing two good strong lambs, became a hat rack this summer, when no-one else in her group did.  She looked a bit lacklustre too, so she had the works - worm, fluke and vitamins.  (There was no diarrhoea, no cud spilling, and she seemed to be eating well, although she never looked as full on the lefthand side as the others in the group.)  She perked up in herself but remained skinny, in fact got more skinny, so I separated her and dried her off, and she's now been on decent grass with the last of the 2019 lambs for a couple of weeks.  When I handled her lambs at weaning, they were happy enough but ever so slightly skinny themselves, whereas every other year, Gwenneth's lambs have been strapping great things and very fit.  Every other lamb in the group is fit to a fault, all bar one are twins, all to the same dad, and all to smaller ewes than Gwenneth.  All the other ewes in the group are between okay - CS 2.5 or thereabouts - and fit as fleas.

What made me think of Johne's?   Well, when I came here, there was a Zwartbles ewe in similar shape, skinny as a hat rack, eating okay but a bit listless, no diarrhoea, no cud spilling, teeth all fine, being pumped full of meds and racking up quite a vet bill.  In the end we all agreed she wasn't rallying, and sent her off for mince (after the withdrawal period, of course!)  Gwenneth reminded me of Mavis so I started to look into what else it could be. 

I knew that sheep could get Johne's, and knew a little about Johne's in cattle, where it is almost always accompanied by very liquid faeces and I knew that diarrhoea was not a symptom in sheep, so I read up about it some more.  Onset is typically at 3-4 years old.  Gwenneth is 2015 born (so this is her 4th crop, all twins; Shetland 1st time, then Romney then Romney x Wensleydale then Shetland again), Mavis was exactly the same age and stage when she went downhill, having had either pure Zwartbles or Texel x lambs each time.

In sheep, as well as often not coming with diarrhoea, Johne's is a pig to diagnose in an individual.  You may be able to get a positive diagnosis post mortem, but an absence of identifiable markers is not conclusive of not being Johne's. 

Things that are distinctive, and which fit, include that the sheep is eating normally, the rest of the group - being managed the same - are not skinny, there is no diarrhoea (at least, after any necessary worming, there isn't) or other obvious cause or sign, but despite feeding, rumen fill is sub-par.  I had noticed that Gwenneth appeared to graze and to cud the same as everyone else, but whereas others looked full to bursting on our good grass this year, Gwenneth looked not only skinny but also not full - a distinct hollow in front of the hips on the left hand side, whereas everyone else was so round with their rumens full to bursting, I had been almost been anxious about bloat once or twice.  (Not really, but they were very, very round.)

There is usually a deterioration in the fleece too, which is actually hard for me to tell as I don't rate Gwenneth's fleece at the best of times :/.  But that had most definitely been true in Mavis' case.

A week ago we were all quite glum and planning to send Gwenneth off, and trying to decide if we should get a PM so we might know for sure (although a negative pm doesn't mean it wasn't Johne's), and whether we dare risk keeping one of her daughters to keep the Zwartbles genes going, for those here who have an attachment to them.

The last couple of days I have thought Gwenneth was back to her old bouncy self, and when I handled her (after being away from Trelay for 10 days, and hadn't handled her since weaning), I thought I maybe could think her slightly less of a hatrack.  She is now getting a little bit of cake by hand of an evening too, which will make her pushy and a nuisance very quickly ::)

So we have agreed to give her another month, keep her well-fed and keep note of where she is kept, make sure she isn't pastured with young keeping lambs - or cattle - and that they don't follow her until spring at the earliest, to graze hard after her with the ponies (which would eat off any bacteria on the grass) and maybe to graze that ground with the ponies first in spring too, so that any bugs in the soil hopefully also get eaten off. 

So, the game plan is, if she gains condition then we assume it wasn't Johne's but that she needs cake even if she lambs onto good grass and has plentful good grass all summer.  If she doesn't gain condition after another month on decent grass, with a little bit of cake (and she will get some good haylage too if the weather stays cold and overcast), then we will think the worst and send her off.  We are going to ask the vet at the abattoir if they would be able to look at her innards and see if they can positively diagnose Johne's, or otherwise a cancer or something else which could explain the failure to thrive.

As to keeping a daughter, we don't have to decide immediately because the daughters, if infected, are unlikely to be infectious until they lamb themselves.  So we can keep one or even both for now, and see what we learn if we do send Gwenneth away.  Personally, if we did get a positive diagnosis then I don't want her daughters on the farm longer term as they are likely to have been infected, if not in utero then through the milk.  But it would be a harder call if there is no positive diagnosis of any cause for her skinniness.

Don't listen to the money men - they know the price of everything and the value of nothing

Live in a cohousing community with small farm for our own use.  Dairy cow, beef cattle, pigs, sheep for meat and fleece, ducks and hens for eggs, veg and fruit growing

twizzel

  • Joined Apr 2012
Re: Johne's disease?
« Reply #1 on: October 10, 2020, 08:36:34 pm »
I think I’d blood test for johnes and MV as a precaution, and check fec for worms including haemonchus? And fluke. Cover all bases  :fc:

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
Re: Johne's disease?
« Reply #2 on: October 10, 2020, 08:46:32 pm »
I think I’d blood test for johnes and MV as a precaution, and check fec for worms including haemonchus? And fluke. Cover all bases  :fc:

The blood test for Johne's is best done on a group, of say 10 ewes, where you think you may have Johne's within the flock, because it is so often inconclusive in an individual :/

I actually know nothing about MV except that you can be MV accredited and some Z flocks are... so that could be a thought... Off to ecosia it, thanks for the suggestion!

Ditto haemonchus (heard of it, no experience or particular knowledge of it).  But it is listed for the wormer I used.  And poor Mavis had dose after dose after dose of different wormers and flukers (at some considerable cost), all to no avail.  I will ask if they ever had a faecal sample analysed from Mavis, I am sure they must have done and it showed nothing untoward.
Don't listen to the money men - they know the price of everything and the value of nothing

Live in a cohousing community with small farm for our own use.  Dairy cow, beef cattle, pigs, sheep for meat and fleece, ducks and hens for eggs, veg and fruit growing

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
Re: Johne's disease?
« Reply #3 on: October 10, 2020, 08:53:24 pm »
On haemonchus, it seems that anaemia would be a sign of a chronic infection.  I checked her mucus membranes when looking for other symptoms, and all were fine.

Assuming she can't have haemonchus because I have wormed her with a popular broad spectrum wormer, however, was clearly naive of me, as it has a high incidence of resistance.  So I will double-check the mucous membranes and will be prepared to do a fec if we want to do more differential diagnosis.  So thanks, twiz!! :)
Don't listen to the money men - they know the price of everything and the value of nothing

Live in a cohousing community with small farm for our own use.  Dairy cow, beef cattle, pigs, sheep for meat and fleece, ducks and hens for eggs, veg and fruit growing

twizzel

  • Joined Apr 2012
Re: Johne's disease?
« Reply #4 on: October 10, 2020, 09:07:29 pm »
I think a chat with the vet wouldn’t do any harm either way, they should be able to discuss differentials and maybe what tests would be worth running. Hope you get to the bottom of it!

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
Re: Johne's disease?
« Reply #5 on: October 10, 2020, 09:34:08 pm »
I think a chat with the vet wouldn’t do any harm either way, they should be able to discuss differentials and maybe what tests would be worth running. Hope you get to the bottom of it!

TBH, if we were with the same vets as we were when Mavis went the same way, I would probably save the money.  But we are with a different practise now, so perhaps we should be brave and give them a shot.  Just it is very easy, when you don't want to make decisions based purely on the economics of the situation, to get suckered into / sucker yourself into spending a fortune on tests and drugs and getting nowhere, meanwhile you have an unthrifty unhappy animal potentially seeding pasture with bugs...   And if we do want her away, we have 6 weeks to do it or she's here till Feb - or it's fallen stock, I suppose.
Don't listen to the money men - they know the price of everything and the value of nothing

Live in a cohousing community with small farm for our own use.  Dairy cow, beef cattle, pigs, sheep for meat and fleece, ducks and hens for eggs, veg and fruit growing

twizzel

  • Joined Apr 2012
Re: Johne's disease?
« Reply #6 on: October 10, 2020, 10:15:56 pm »
I’d like to know her status if you’re contemplating keeping a ewe lamb from her, then if needs be you could cut your losses. So whilst it may not help her, it would give you an idea of the health status of the rest of the flock. We recently had to do this with our cattle and BVD, we blood tested the whole herd in the end, just to find out the status of every animal on the farm  :tired:  finding a proactive sheep vet is hard but they are around! Ours are fab but too far from you sadly.

PipKelpy

  • Joined Mar 2019
  • North Shropshire
  • Dreamer with docile cattle and sheep!
Re: Johne's disease?
« Reply #7 on: October 11, 2020, 08:03:06 am »
I always got my cades from the same farm.

One particular year I got several and reared them as replacements. One in particular, Angel, was one of the nicest sheep I have ever reared. But no matter what I did, she always had a dirty bum. Brother in law "I know best" was adamant she had worms, so was wormed! Cleaned up, then dirty bum came back. In the end, the vet suggested bloods (I like to spend money willy nilly on cretins that aren't worth it!).

The vet phoned me up! "Get rid, now!! She's tested positive for Johnes!" Fortunately it was Tuesday when he phoned, Wednesday we took her to Market Drayton Auction .

When I said where she come from, should I tell them? He told me that it's passed down the line which means they have it in their flock and doesn't always present visually with all animals. From that I have been concerned ever since in case anything was shed and passed to my girls, though to be honest they are all currently fat with clean bums (and only 2 are in lamb!)

Halter train the cattle to keep them quiet but watch your back when they come a'bulling! Give them all names even those you plan to eat. Always be calm. Most importantly, invest in wellies with steel toe caps and be prepared for the clever cow who knows where the toe caps end!!

Buttermilk

  • Joined Jul 2014
Re: Johne's disease?
« Reply #8 on: October 11, 2020, 11:56:19 am »
I had a group of poor thriving Zwartbles, well wormed and fluked.  We chose one and met the vet at the abatoir and he did a post mortem immediately after slaughter.  Both worms and fluke were present.  Turns out I had imported resistant ones from Wales.  Change of drugs from ivermectin and triclabendazole sorted things out.

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
Re: Johne's disease?
« Reply #9 on: October 11, 2020, 04:16:56 pm »
We don't worm routinely any more, just manage the pasture with rotational grazing (cattle then sheep then ponies) and worm anyone who seems to need it - usually only one or two a year.  Gwenneth's only sign was being skinny, her poops are fine and she's not mucky.  I have wormed two other sheep this year and both have cleaned up, so to me that says that the worms here are not resistant to the wormer/flukicide I am using.
Don't listen to the money men - they know the price of everything and the value of nothing

Live in a cohousing community with small farm for our own use.  Dairy cow, beef cattle, pigs, sheep for meat and fleece, ducks and hens for eggs, veg and fruit growing

Anke

  • Joined Dec 2009
  • St Boswells, Scottish Borders
Re: Johne's disease?
« Reply #10 on: October 11, 2020, 08:53:22 pm »
There is no way you will know for sure unless you do get a positive bloodtest, or PTS and then get a pm done. I had a Shetland ewe recently who lost condition very rapidly after shearing (none of mine lambed this spring and most were on the "doing well side" without any additional feed over winter, not even hay) and we had to put her out of her misery at the end. I suspect Johne's, as she was still chewing her cud but was unable to get up by then, droppings completely normal, membranes not particulalry pale, full mouth, at least 5 years old. She went from being in good condition to being skeletal in a matter of a few weeks... none of the others were in any way showing signs of anything amiss.


I now blood test my goats 6-monthly and cull any that are positive (or isolate if positive result while they are already in kid, then snatch the kids and feed from negative dam, infected goat is then culled immediately after kidding), but I cannot see how that would ever be economical in a sheep flock... It isn't for the goats either, but as we drink the milk raw, and with lower numbers I hope to be able to get rid of it at some point, I am doing it for the time being. It costs a fortune, very few goatkeepers do it though...


If there is no way you can breed from her again and she would need special care away from the main flock, is it worth persevering with her? What is her quality of life?

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
Re: Johne's disease?
« Reply #11 on: October 11, 2020, 10:07:03 pm »
She's actually very happy and bright at the moment, so I am hopeful that I may be wrong about the Johnes and that her problem is that she needs cake, even on good grass, to rear lambs now. 

Had she not perked up in herself after worming, and again after speaning, drying off and going onto better grass, she would have been away tomorrow with the last of the shearlings. 

If in one month's time, after being on good grass and getting a little bit of cake (and haylage if needed), she has not put some flesh on, then I think her fate is mince.  Our 2020 lambs will go off end Nov and she will be with them if she hasn't improved.  Until then, she will not run with any keeping lambs, and anywhere she does graze will be hard grazed with the ponies and not have any susceptible ruminants on for at least three months. 

If we do keep her and breed her again, we will have to make a group of ewes and lambs who get grass pellets.  We've got a BFL x Shetland and her Shetland x daughter who put a lot into their milk, and a first-timer, so that would probably be the feeding group.

I read that Johnes has no effect on humans, just ruminants. 
Don't listen to the money men - they know the price of everything and the value of nothing

Live in a cohousing community with small farm for our own use.  Dairy cow, beef cattle, pigs, sheep for meat and fleece, ducks and hens for eggs, veg and fruit growing

Anke

  • Joined Dec 2009
  • St Boswells, Scottish Borders
Re: Johne's disease?
« Reply #12 on: October 12, 2020, 09:45:30 am »
Sally - all of my recent Johne's positives have been in fantastic condition, no sign of anything amiss! There is (so far contraidctory) research results that maybe (or not) link Johne's to Crohn's in humans, but through milk not meat. So sheep les likely to cause problems.




Scarlet.Dragon

  • Joined May 2015
  • Aberdeenshire
Re: Johne's disease?
« Reply #13 on: October 12, 2020, 09:58:32 am »
The latest research I've read is that the link between Johnes and Crohns has been all but proven and that is imminent with the next few papers.  There's also evidence that MAP (which is believed to be a causative agent) is not destroyed/denatured by either cooking or pasteurisation and therefore it is believed possible that it could be passed on through eating infected meat or drinking infected milk. 

It's worth reading up some of the links "GoatVetOz' posts on Facebook.  She seems to be keen to eradicate both CAE and Johnes from herds and flocks and points to interesting research on a regular basis. 

It's one of the reasons that, if the UK truly wants to retain it's "excellence" brand post Brexit, more people need to get into the "high health" schemes monitoring for these debilitating diseases and conditions and we need to cull hard on anything that is infected.  Unfortunately, industrial agriculture that moves livestock around various premises on a regular basis without biosecurity means that these diseases are rampant and often undetected in mainstream agriculture.
Excellence is the result of caring more than others think is wise, risking more than others think is safe, dreaming more than others think is practical and expecting more than others think is possible.

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
Re: Johne's disease?
« Reply #14 on: October 12, 2020, 10:10:21 am »
Sally - all of my recent Johne's positives have been in fantastic condition, no sign of anything amiss! There is (so far contraidctory) research results that maybe (or not) link Johne's to Crohn's in humans, but through milk not meat. So sheep les likely to cause problems.

 :o

Wow, that one had passed me by.

I am fascinated...  We have a local who has Crohn's and also heart problems.  The drugs for the two conditions interact in a bad way.  He loves to get hold of raw cow's milk when he can, because his Crohn's is so much better when he drinks raw cow's milk, he can then reduce the Crohn's meds and up the heart meds, which makes him feel much better.

I am also a bit nonplussed.  Several articles that I have now read include statements along the lines of "Crohn’s disease in humans is similar to Johne’s disease in animals both clinically and pathologically."  However, I have known 3 people with Crohn's, and all 3 were portly wine-drinkers who also smoked.  The only consistent symptom of Johnes disease across all ruminants is being skinny.  So I am struggling to see Crohn's and Johnes as similar from my own experience.



Don't listen to the money men - they know the price of everything and the value of nothing

Live in a cohousing community with small farm for our own use.  Dairy cow, beef cattle, pigs, sheep for meat and fleece, ducks and hens for eggs, veg and fruit growing

 

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