The CHECS board is committed to addressing a number of issues with its current rules for testing and assessing risk of MAP infection (precursor to Johne’s disease) within cattle herds. These concerns include discretion over actions taken subsequent to blood test positive results, which has – over the past few years – been applied in different ways by different health schemes. A variation in the application of protocols will mean a variation in the outcome results. This in turn means buyers of cattle from herds with the same risk status may in fact face different levels of risk. This is neither acceptable nor sustainable for all involved.
However, addressing this issue has proved extremely problematic.
CHECS is very small not-for-profit organisation determining best practice standards for cattle disease reduction, operating on a tiny budget and advised by a group of specialists who donate their time freely. Several years of disagreement within the technical board of CHECS over this specific issue has been costly to all involved in terms of time, emotional stress and funding. While a unanimous decision about the rule changes needed to draw this to a close was arbitrated by the management board earlier in 2021, it has become clear that despite many in the industry supporting these changes, others remain concerned about unintended consequences these changes might carry. The management board is aware that some of the concerns have been due to misunderstandings – not least due to the communications challenges COVID and lockdown have brought – and steps have been taken to address these. However, doubts remain in some minds and these, too, need to be put to bed.
So to draw this matter to full and final resolution, the CHECS management board has asked two independent experts in the field of MAP infection to review the pending changes to the scheme and the data submitted by the health schemes to determine the extent of any unintended consequences these rule changes may generate. The CHECS health scheme providers have agreed on the choice of these two experts.
Once this review is concluded towards the end of 2021, the results will be reviewed with the health scheme providers – who are the CHECS members. This means that rule changes will now be delayed until 2022. We will keep stakeholders updated on progress, especially health scheme providers and veterinary groups, as well as the NBA and NFU. If farmers who work with specific health schemes have any comments or questions, they can channel them through these organisations or through their CHECS health schemes.
In the meantime we would ask the wider farming and veterinary community to recognise the extremely challenging nature of the issue we are dealing with, and show respect and courtesy at all times to those involved who are working hard to try and resolve this matter in the interests of evidence-based, long-term disease reduction in our cattle population.