The aims of this study were to estimate the on-fam economic cost of ovine Johne’s disease (OJD) based on collected incidence and mortality data, and the benefit-cost of OJD vaccination in typical OJD affected flocks in New Zealand after having vaccinated for a number of years. Owners of 20 sheep breeding and finishing farms known to be clinically affected by ovine Johne’s disease in New Zealand participated in the study and were monitored for up to two years. Farms were categorized as fine-wool (Merino, Half-Bred, Corriedale, n = 15), and other breeds (Romney, composite breeds, n = 5). Ovine JD was confirmed by gross- and histo-pathology in 358 ewes culled due to chronic progressive wasting. An additional 228 ewes with low body condition score (BCS), but not targeted for culling, were tested with ELISA to estimate the proportion of OJD in ewes in the lower 5% BCS of the flock. Calculations were done separately for fine-wool and other breeds. Based on the data, mortality due to OJD, its associated cost and the benefit-cost of vaccination were evaluated for a hypothetical farm with 2000 ewes by stochastic simulation. Total ewe mortality was similar in fine-wool and other breeds, but the estimated mortality due to OJD was 2.7 times as high in fine-wool (median 1.8%, interquartile range IQR 1.2–2.7%) than other breeds (median 0.69%, IQR 0.3–1.2%), but with large variation between farms. ELISA results demonstrated fine-wool sheep had a higher seroprevalence than other breeds (39%, 95% CI 18–61% vs. 9%, 95% CI 0–22%). Stochastic modelling indicated that the average annual cost of mortality due to OJD in a flock of 2000 ewes was NZD 13,100 (IQR 8900–18,600) in fine-wool and NZD 4300 (IQR 2200–7600) in other breeds. Vaccinating replacement lambs against OJD may be cost-effective in most flocks when the pre-vaccination annual ewe mortality due to OJD is >1%. To make the best-informed decision about vaccination it is therefore essential for farmers to accurately diagnose OJD to establish incidence.
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