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Vet J. 2001 May;161(3):306-13.

The grazing response of cattle to pasture contaminated with rabbit faeces and the implications for the transmission of paratuberculosis.

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Animal Nutrition and Health Department, Scottish Agricultural College, West Mains Road, Edinburgh, EH9 3JG, UK.


Transmission of Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis, the organism responsible for paratuberculosis (or Johne's disease) in ruminants, occurs through the faecal-oral route. As M. a. paratuberculosis has been isolated from rabbit faeces, cattle grazing rabbit faecal contaminated pasture may thus be at risk.A herd of 57 beef cattle was monitored on a farm in Perthshire, throughout the 1999 'grazing year', to investigate whether the cattle avoided rabbit faecal contaminated pasture and thus the potential for disease transmission. Grazing was measured every two days over eight rotations by sward heights on 40 marked treatment plots (0.5 m x 0.5 m) to which 0, 10, 50 and 250 rabbit faecal pellets were added. Cattle were also monitored by an active transponder system which enabled individual animals contacting two plots per field rotation (one control and one contaminated) to be recorded. During the monitored grazing year, grazing pressure was low with a net mean sward offtake of 18% of sward height per rotation. There were no significant differences between rabbit faecal treatments (0, 10, 50 and 250 pellets) with respect to the height or proportion of sward removed, or between the numbers of contacts made by cattle on contaminated and uncontaminated plots. Over 90% of all the cattle contacted contaminated plots, indicating that the potential for disease transmission was widespread among the herd. To our knowledge, this is the first reported instance of a lack of avoidance by grazing cattle towards swards contaminated with faeces, and implies that the potential for transmission of paratuberculosis from rabbit contaminated pasture is high.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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