As Alistair confirms Johne's disease in Brookfield's herd, large animal vet Keith Cutler explains why Ruth and David are so dismayed.

Johne's disease is a chronic, insidious disease of cattle (and other species) for which there is no treatment and which is ultimately invariably fatal. It is caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis.

Most affected animals are infected within the first weeks of life, generally through exposure to faeces from infected adults. But clinical signs of disease, including profuse diarrhoea and weight loss, are not usually seen until the animal reaches between three and six years of age. Before this, during the preclinical phase of the disease, fertility and milk yield will be compromised and there will be an increased susceptibility to a range of other diseases to which cattle can succumb.

Owners of herds infected with Johne's disease have to cull more animals at a younger age, need to rear more heifers to replace them and are less profitable than herds which are free of the disease.

Keith Cutler BSc BVSc DipECBHM MRCVS is a partner in Endell Veterinary Group in Salisbury

  • Picture shows a dairy cow suffering from Johne's disease. The weight loss is especially apparent around the back legs and spine.
  • Picture courtesy of Endell Veterinary Group.

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  • Comment number 8. Posted by DevonDairyFarmer

    on 12 May 2011 17:01

    Johne's disease is a difficult to manage disease, that many farmers have increasing awareness. The poor cow in the pic is covered in 'manure' due to having had profuse diarrhoea not because she is kept in poor conditions. I imagine Johne's is getting airtime on the Archers because so many farmers are trying to be proactive about this disease

    David and Ruth Archer have both a dairy herd and a Hereford beef herd.

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  • Comment number 7. Posted by Brian-of-Britain

    on 14 Apr 2011 10:31

    6. At 7:28pm on 09 Apr 2011, Elizabeth wrote:

    Why do we see a picture of a Friesian when the Brookfield herd is of Herefords?

    Lazy? Ignorant? Take your pick.

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  • Comment number 6. Posted by Elizabeth

    on 9 Apr 2011 18:28

    Why do we see a picture of a Friesian when the Brookfield herd is of Herefords?

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  • Comment number 5. Posted by ronwen Roberts

    on 20 Mar 2011 23:21

    I agree with mikedotneil........ most dairy cows have a rotten life and is illustrated by that dairy cow standing in a filthy pen....Ruth and David have much higher standards

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  • Comment number 4. Posted by Janemac

    on 18 Mar 2011 20:11

    So sad, there is always something waiting to kick them. It really is just like real life!

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  • Comment number 3. Posted by anna kist

    on 17 Mar 2011 11:18

    Let's hope the dopeys are bankrupted by this. Now that would be a SATTC.

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  • Comment number 2. Posted by Squirrelnet

    on 16 Mar 2011 22:26

    It's probably just heard an advance preview of Ambridge Extra.

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  • Comment number 1. Posted by mikedotneil

    on 15 Mar 2011 22:47

    I don't know about Johne's disease, but this cow is covered in manure - it can't help!

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