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Table 1 Programme option alignment with Irish Johne’s Control Programme objectives

From: Johne’s disease in Irish dairy herds: considerations for an effective national control programme

Programme objectives VRAMP alone Voluntary test-based assurance programme with VRAMP National surveillance for case-detection and voluntary farmer action Combination of VRAMP, voluntary assurance and national surveillance
1. Enhance the ability of participating farmers to keep their herds clear of MAP infection Partially. Bioexclusion recommendations are provided, but farmers are unaware of their herd infection status or the risk from source herds for introductions in the absence of assurance testing. Yes. Low-risk herds participating in programme can be identified as a source of new stock if required. VRAMP bioexclusion recommendations complement this. Should be supported by a farmer declaration of herd assurance score. No. Farmers do not have information on other herds’ status, unless case-herd farmers volunteer this information. Engagement with the programme after positive results is not mandatory. The test sensitivity of some case detection methods for example Bulk Tank Milk testing precludes identifying all case herds. Yes, largely through voluntary assurance programme and VRAMP.
2. Enable participating farmers to reduce the level of infection in their herds, where present Partially. Biocontainment recommendations are provided, but farmers are unaware of their herd infection status in the absence of testing. Yes. Participating herds that are identified as infected can implement control measures and within-herd prevalence may be determined. VRAMP biocontainment recommendations complement this. Partially. Infected herds can be identified, and farmers contacted for general education on control measures. Uptake of control recommendations is dependent on the farmer and within-farm prevalence and specific farm context and management practices are likely unknown. Yes, identification of infected herds by voluntary assurance testing and VRAMP to provide guidance on control measures, supplemented by national surveillance for case detection
3. Provide additional assurance to the marketplace (domestic and international) in relation to Ireland’s efforts to control MAP infection No. Limited value without assurance testing or national surveillance. Partially. Milk processors can source milk from herds identified as low risk for sensitive markets. Provides some case-detection of infected herds, but unless participation rates are high does not provide broad case-detection or national prevalence estimates to assure trading partners. Partially. More comprehensive case detection may be achieved than through a voluntary assurance programme. High-prevalence (high-risk) herds could be detected for voluntary action and exclusion from sensitive markets (e.g. through bulk milk testing surveillance) Yes, depending on market requirements. Voluntary assurance programme can be enhanced by national surveillance to detect high prevalence (high-risk) herds to encourage participation in assurance programme and VRAMP. The combination of test-based voluntary assurance and national case-detection provides more information to share with trading partners/markets, if required.
4. Improve calf health and farm biosecurity in participating farms Yes. Bioexclusion and biocontainment recommendations are given, however these may be general in nature, without knowing herd infection status. Yes. VRAMPs address this objective, plus regular herd-testing to identify high-risk animals for culling. Partially. General recommendations given for identified case-herds, but unlikely to consider within-herd prevalence and individual farm context and management practices. Yes, through VRAMP, plus regular herd-testing to identify high-risk animals for culling.