Poor funding and the inclusion of only 1,200 dairy herds in the Irish Johne’s Control Programme (IJCP) means we could miss our opportunity to reduce the disease, Veterinary Ireland’s Conor Geraghty has warned.

In January, Phase 2 of the four-year IJCP was launched by Animal Health Ireland (AHI) and the Department of Agriculture.

According to AHI, processors and the Department committed €600,000 each to the programme, with that figure set to increase each year as additional herds join the programme.

Mr Geraghty said that €13 million would be needed to implement a national Johne’s programme that would include all dairy herds, and that the current allocation of over €1m is not sufficient.

“There are 18,000 dairy herds in the country and only just over 1,000 are being treated in this programme. If we wanted a national programme to incorporate all dairy herds, €13m should be allocated a year,” he said.

“We’re at 27pc Johne’s in Ireland; once you go to 50pc you might as well throw in the towel altogether.

“They can’t control it in the US, and in Holland and Denmark it’s at 70pc – they’ve gone past the stage where they can solve it.

“There is an opportunity for Ireland to be Johne’s-free but only if there’s enough money and a drive for it.”

Cork vet Bill Cashman, who was a member of the IJCP implementation group, resigned from the role before Christmas as he was unhappy with funding committed and the time allotted to it.

AHI CEO David Graham said herds included in the IJCP are “expected to grow substantially in the coming years and that the funds allocated to the programme are enough to meet current demand”.

“The figure of €13m per year was generated in a study conducted some years ago for the cost of testing in a programme involving all dairy herds,” said Mr Graham.”The level of financial support available from DAFM and processors is sufficient to meet current demand, with commitments to increase this as participation grows.”

He strongly encouraged herds not taking part in the scheme to register their interest with AHI.

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