The Missouri Department of Agriculture has formed an advisory committee to educate cattle producers about Johne's disease, a deadly bacterial ailment that infects beef and dairy cattle.

The committee is made up of representatives from the state's beef and dairy industries, veterinarians and officials with the Missouri Department of Agriculture and the University of Missouri, Columbia. The committee will meet quarterly.

"The Missouri Johne's Advisory Committee will play an important role in informing livestock producers about the disease and its adverse effects on the state's dairy and beef cattle herds," said Dr. Bretaigne Jones, staff veterinarian with the department's Division of Animal Health. "Our goal is to educate cattle producers about Johne's disease, transmission of the bacteria and testing options, so we can control and eventually eliminate the disease in Missouri."

The state's voluntary Johne's Certification Program identifies test-negative herds through a series of annual testing. These test-negative herds are excellent sources of replacement stock. Producers work with local veterinarians and the department's Division of Animal Health to test their herds and, in cases where infection is found, to develop customized herd management plans that help reduce economic losses associated with the disease.

Johne's (pronounced Yo-knees) disease is caused by Mycobacterium paratuberculosis, and is spread through contact with contaminated manure, milk and colostrum. Affected cattle will exhibit chronic diarrhea and weight loss, but these symptoms are non-specific and may not manifest for years after exposure, Dr. Jones said. There is no treatment for the disease, which eventually leads to death.

For more information about the Johne's advisory committee or the state's Johne's Certification Program, call the Missouri Department of Agriculture's Division of Animal Health at (573) 751-3377.

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