Monday, 27 September 2021 10:09

Technology behind Covid wastewater testing helping farmers identify disease in herd

Written by  Staff Reporters
The technology used to detect Covid-19 in wastewater is now being used to help dairy farmers manage Johne’s disease in their herd. The technology used to detect Covid-19 in wastewater is now being used to help dairy farmers manage Johne’s disease in their herd.

The technology used to detect Covid-19 in wastewater is now being used to help dairy farmers manage Johne’s disease in their herd.

Johne’s disease is caused by a bacterium which infects the gut of dairy cows and other ruminant animals. Common side effects include lower milk production, difficulty reproducing and rapid weight loss.

Herd improvement co-operative LIC has developed a new test which detects whether the bacteria responsible for Johne’s disease is present in a farm’s effluent wastewater.

The test is a New Zealand-first for farmers, to help them detect the disease and prevent the spread of it on their farm, protecting the health and wellbeing of their animals.

LIC chief scientist Richard Spelman says, similar to Covid-19 wastewater testing, this test is a surveillance measure.

“We developed this test because Johne’s disease is common in dairy cows but it can be difficult to detect. Infected animals often don’t show physical symptoms of the disease, meanwhile their milk production can drop and they spread the infection to others.

“This new test provides farmers with a cost-effective way to screen their herd for Johne’s disease and use this information to determine whether individual animal testing is required,” Spelman says.

He says it’s important for farmers to have a range of tools available to help produce the most sustainable, productive and efficient animals, and the new effluent test is another tool they can add to their toolbox.

The test comprises of four samples taken from different areas of the farm’s effluent system.

Similar to Covid testing where RNA is extracted from wastewater sites and analysed by Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR), the LIC test extracts DNA from the effluent samples, which are analysed by scientists using the same type of PCR test.

Each effluent sample receives a ‘detected’ or ‘not detected’ result.

“If Johne’s disease bacteria is detected in a sample, we encourage farmers to get each of their cows tested using blood or herd test milk samples to identify carriers of the disease,” says Spelman.

If there is no sign of the bacteria on-farm in the initial effluent test, LIC’s research shows the herd is likely to either be currently disease free, or low in disease prevalence.

Annual testing is recommended so farmers can identify if or when animals start shedding Johne’s bacteria into the effluent system.

Spelman says now is an optimal time for most farmers to consider using the effluent test.

“For spring calving farmers, it’s best to test from September to December to help ensure the entire herd is captured in the effluent samples.”

More like this

Rural vaccination message from Damien O'Connor

OPINION: Rural New Zealanders and those working in the primary sector play a vital role in our response to COVID-19 and it's important they take the opportunity to get vaccinated against the virus, says Agriculture and Rural Communities Minister Damien O'Connor

UK farmers seeking special Covid visas

UK farmers are joining organisations from across the food and farming sector in calling for the Government to introduce a 12-month 'Covid-19 recovery visa'.

'Work with us through Covid'

Farmlands new chief executive says she is going back to the basics for the short-term, which includes a focus on keeping employees safe and engaged through the Covid-19 pandemic.

National

Why should we do more?

OPINION: Managing our dairy sector's impacts inevitably attracts a range of views. Should we do more, less or stay the…

Cattle sale with a difference

Innovation, loss and resilience have brought the Singh family to the point where it is poised to honour its patriarch,…

O'Connor's overseas odyssey

Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor continued his overseas odyssey in the past week with multiple meetings in the US, Europe and…

Machinery & Products

Protective tint

Now available in New Zealand, Wildcat Static Cling Tint adds a protective layer to the windows of your tractor, harvester…

New owner for stoll

German company Stoll, the well-known manufacturer of tractor front loaders and attachments that claims to be the second largest producer…

Fert spreaders get a revamp

Kuhn has updated its MDS range of fertiliser spreaders, giving farmers more options to upgrade machines as situations change, rather…

Mowers spring into action

With spring upon us, thoughts turn towards shutting up paddocks for conservation and maybe the purchase of new machinery to…

» The RNG Weather Report

» Latest Print Issues Online

Milking It

Feeling the heat

US dairy farmers have a new threat to their business - heat waves.

Class action

The news has gone from bad to worse for a2 Milk - the company Synlait had hitched its wagon to.

» Connect with Dairy News

» eNewsletter

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter