Projects / Programmes source: ARIS

Rising the competitve position of Slovenian cattle farming by controlling paratuberculosis in dairy cattle herds

Research activity

Code Science Field Subfield
4.04.02  Biotechnical sciences  Veterinarian medicine  Animal pathology and epizootiology 

Code Science Field
B230  Biomedical sciences  Microbiology, bacteriology, virology, mycology 

Code Science Field
4.03  Agricultural and Veterinary Sciences  Veterinary science 
Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis, paratuberculosis, dairy cows, cattle breeding, economic model, disease costs
Evaluation (rules)
source: COBISS
Researchers (19)
no. Code Name and surname Research area Role Period No. of publicationsNo. of publications
1.  28448  PhD Jana Avberšek  Veterinarian medicine  Researcher  2018 - 2021  116 
2.  33139  PhD Petra Bandelj  Veterinarian medicine  Researcher  2018 - 2021  54 
3.  21704  PhD Jožica Ježek  Veterinarian medicine  Researcher  2018 - 2021  309 
4.  39657  Maja Kavalič    Technical associate  2018 - 2021 
5.  08405  PhD Marija Klopčič  Animal production  Researcher  2018 - 2021  716 
6.  38142  PhD Tanja Knific  Veterinarian medicine  Researcher  2018 - 2021  65 
7.  11132  PhD Branko Krt  Veterinarian medicine  Researcher  2018 - 2021  227 
8.  24296  PhD Darja Kušar  Veterinarian medicine  Researcher  2018 - 2021  193 
9.  08544  MSc Marija Nemec  Veterinarian medicine  Technical associate  2018 - 2021  183 
10.  11133  PhD Matjaž Ocepek  Veterinarian medicine  Head  2018 - 2021  467 
11.  38144  PhD Bojan Papić  Veterinarian medicine  Junior researcher  2018 - 2020  100 
12.  24612  PhD Mateja Pate  Veterinarian medicine  Researcher  2018 - 2019  277 
13.  24598  PhD Tina Pirš  Veterinarian medicine  Technical associate  2018 - 2021  84 
14.  23944  PhD Jože Starič  Veterinarian medicine  Researcher  2018 - 2021  463 
15.  18110  Milojka Šetina    Technical associate  2018 - 2020 
16.  18884  PhD Tanja Švara  Veterinarian medicine  Researcher  2018 - 2021  222 
17.  38954  Anita Ule  Animal production  Researcher  2018 - 2021  105 
18.  33447  Urška Zajc  Veterinarian medicine  Technical associate  2018 - 2021  74 
19.  12682  PhD Irena Zdovc  Veterinarian medicine  Researcher  2018 - 2021  462 
Organisations (2)
no. Code Research organisation City Registration number No. of publicationsNo. of publications
1.  0406  University of Ljubljana, Veterinary Faculty  Ljubljana  1627139  10,133 
2.  0481  University of Ljubljana, Biotechnical Faculty  Ljubljana  1626914  65,856 
Paratuberculosis is an incurable, contagious and chronic bowel disease of cattle and small ruminants and some other domestic and wild animals (deer, hare, fox …). It is caused by Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis (MAP), a bacterium extremely resistant to heat, cold, sunlight, desiccation and common disinfectants and can survive for more than a year in the environment. Paratuberculosis usually occurs as subclinical infection, but some animals develop a chronic wasting disorder, which results in decreased milk production and pregnancy rate and increased culling and mortality rate. The fecal-oral transmission is the most common route of infection (through udder, water, feed or environment contaminated with MAP), however infection with colostrum and milk from infected cows and intrauterine transmission are possible. Calves are the most susceptible and are usually infected in the first month of life, exceptionally up to six months of age. MAP causes the swelling of the intestinal mucosa which therefore renders the uptake of nutrients impossible. Milk production decreases, animals lose weight and body mass despite the preserved appetite. Initially intermittent diarrhoea becomes watery as the disease progresses and leads to emaciation and death. Early diagnostics of paratuberculosis is hampered by a long latent phase. Apparently healthy animals may already shed MAP with faeces and contaminate pasture, feed and water. The disease is most commonly introduced to a herd by buying a subclinically infected animal. The main source of infection for animals in the herd are the animals with apparent clinical signs, which shed high numbers of MAP with faeces. Iceberg concept of disease occurrence is characteristic for paratuberculosis: in a herd with 100 animals for every animal with apparent clinical signs, there are 15-25 infected animals without clinical signs. Once the disease spreads in the herd, it is hard to eliminate it. Paratuberculosis is one of the diseases which strongly endanger the economic efficiency of ruminant herds in Slovenia and worldwide. The disease causes more damage than perceived at first sight. Animal productivity can decrease for up to 30%, food conversion for 12-25%, the postpartum period is longer and animals with paratuberculosis are more susceptible to other diseases. In Europe, financial loss per every infected animal without clinical signs has been estimated to be 260 €. In the USA, the losses due to loss of profit and other costs in moderately infected herds are approximately 70 € while in heavily infected herds they amount to over 150 € per animal per year. MAP may pose a risk for human health as it is suspected to be linked to Crohn’s disease in humans. Even though the details and the consequences of possible MAP infection in humans are not clarified yet, some agriculturally important countries already implemented measures to prevent the entrance of MAP into the food chain. As the disease is mainly introduced by trading with apparently healthy but infected animals, it is recommended to maintain closed herds or to buy new animals from the herds evidently free of paratuberculosis. It is the status of the herd that matters, not the status of individual animal as the detection of MAP in individual animals is often unreliable. Vaccination can be used as a measure to control the disease in individual herds as it can prevent the emergence of clinical signs and reduce the shedding of MAP with faeces and milk, however it cannot cure the disease. Hygiene measures are therefore the most important to control the disease. Slovenia currently lacks any regulations and measures to limit or control the disease. Therefore, it can be expected that a major part of dairy cattle population in Slovenia will be infected in the following years. There is no obligatory paratuberculosis control program in the EU, directed by the European Commission. Certain regions and countries have though developed different control schemes
Significance for science
In the field of animal health management, it is still considered that we are in the middle of the transition to multidisciplinary integration. Therefore, the important contribution of this project is in integrating the classical epidemiological approaches with newer mathematical methods. At the national level or in a broader regional context the latter is usually not the case. This work requires an interdisciplinary approach which can identify more uncertainties and knowledge gaps and enable better collaboration and communication with all stakeholders. Since quantitative epidemiological and economic assessments will be conducted according to the latest scientific findings, the results will provide support for informed decision-making in MAP intervention measures, both at herd and national level. In addition, the results of the project will be used for the international comparison of the effectiveness of different control measures within the COST action SOUND-control. Indirectly, this will also contribute to the new Animal Health Law by facilitating the formation of a single general regulatory framework for unregulated and regulated diseases of cattle in the EU.
Significance for the country
The project results will have a direct influence on animal productivity, health and welfare in dairy cattle herds. Later, all cattle herds in Slovenia can be included in paratuberculosis control on a voluntary basis. A complete overview of health status will be performed in the infected herds, together with cost analysis, which will be useful for preparation of possible measures to control other diseases in ruminant herds. Determination of MAP prevalence in the environment will contribute to prevention of infection spread. The guidelines for disease control will serve as a base for limitation of short-term harmful effects of paratuberculosis (decreased milk production, preterm slaughter, body weight loss, connection of paratuberculosis and mastitis, pneumonia and reproductive disorders, death) and also long-term harmful effects, including continuous transmission of MAP and loss of genetic potential. Improvement of animal health status and productivity is a prerequisite for rising the competitive position of Slovenian cattle breeding and therefore preserving this important agricultural branch. Implementation of control programs and herd certification may contribute to protection of Slovenian cattle breeding from potential trade bans. If the suspicion about the link between MAP and Crohn's disease in humans is confirmed in the future, we may expect significant economic losses. Therefore, the research and control of paratuberculosis should become priorities in order to protect Slovenian cattle breeding.
Most important scientific results Annual report 2019, 2020
Most important socioeconomically and culturally relevant results Annual report 2018, 2019, 2020
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