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Johne’s Disease Prevention and Control on Organic Dairy Farms in Ontario, Canada

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Title: Johne’s Disease Prevention and Control on Organic Dairy Farms in Ontario, Canada
Author: Pieper, Laura
Department: Department of Population Medicine
Program: Population Medicine
Advisor: Kelton, David
Abstract: This thesis investigates Johne’s disease (JD) risk factors and control strategies on organic and conventional dairy farms in Ontario, Canada. The JD Risk Assessment and Management Plan (RAMP) was evaluated and used for the comparison of JD control between both farming types. Attitudes about JD control among organic producers and veterinarians were further investigated. RAMP data and JD milk or serum ELISA results from herds voluntarily participating in the Ontario Johne’s Education and Management Assistance Program (OJEMAP) were used for the first three research chapters. Individual interviews and focus groups with organic producers and veterinarians were used in the last two research chapters to understand attitudes about JD prevention and control, as well as about organic farming and the veterinarian-producer relationship. The veterinarian conducting the RAMP greatly influenced the RAMP scores and the recommendations that were given to the producers. However, the RAMP was considered useful in determining the between-herd and within-herd JD transmission risk and in identifying recommendations for JD control for the producers. Organic and conventional farms had a similar herd-level ELISA test-positive prevalence, but affected organic herds had a higher within-herd prevalence than affected conventional herds. Compared to conventional farms, organic dairy farms were found to have higher risk for JD transmission in the calving and calf management areas, but lower risk in the biosecurity area. Contrarily, organic producers received fewer recommendations in the calving and calf management areas. There was hesitation among organic producers to change management practices for JD control and among veterinarians to recommend certain management changes because of organic practices. Organic producers tended to focus on test-and-cull strategies, whereas veterinarians focused on management improvement to control the spread of the disease. While the veterinarian-organic farmer relationships were mostly good, most veterinarians were lacking knowledge about organic farming and did not appear to be the main advisor on many operations. Therefore, education efforts for organic dairy producers regarding approaches for JD control should be increased. Continuing education for veterinarians regarding organic dairy production and regulations might help in improving the veterinary-client relationship and, consequently, in delivery of animal health programs on organic dairy farms.
Date: 2014-07
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