Variations in the profitability of dairy farms in Victoria, Australia by different levels of engagement in bovine Johne's disease control.
Paratuberculosis or Johne's disease (JD) prevalence in Australia is low at the cow-level with varying herd-level prevalence. Control strategies incorporating vaccination are limited, suggesting opportunities for changes in regulatory oversight. In order to study this further, we examined the economic benefits of participation in JD control programmes in Australia with and without vaccination as well as knowledge, attitudes, and practices (KAP) relating to JD. We used an online questionnaire to gather information describing demographics and KAP from 71 Australian dairy farms. Data from fully completed questionnaires from 32 farms in Victoria, Australia combined with cost and revenue data averaged from several years of the Dairy Farm Monitor Project were used to then simulate a larger robust dataset. These production data informed the simulation model to establish farm profitability. A partial farm budget was then developed to estimate the benefits of engaging in JD control activities. Respondents who stated they participated in JD control programmes gained an additional $43.80/cow/year net income (profit) compared to non-participants. Respondents also using a JD vaccine gained an additional $35.84/cow/year over non-users; this represents $10.56/cow/year over and above the average producer in the industry. However, we also noted that there clearly exists a barrier between farmers stated intentions to participate and actual participation in JD control activities. These significant differences in net income realized by farms using different approaches to JD control (in this case, adoption of vaccination) offer a starting point from which to explore questions of how much farmers would be willing to pay for control activities, why they are willing to pay, and the likelihood of participating. Communication of the benefits of participation needs to improve to bridge this gap between farmers stated intentions and their actions. Simulation modelling suggests increased profitability from participation in JD control programs and vaccination in Australia. The JD regulatory policies of other countries may benefit from the Australian experience with JD control.