SME Technology against Johne’s Disease

Leen de Vink, the only distributor of the SMET device, and a dairy farmer himself, has already sold around 160 devices, mostly in the Netherlands and some in Denmark, Poland and the USA. One of these so-called SMET-boxes costs around 1000 euro, which in the Netherlands is the equivalent of the price of one cow.

By 2015, approximately 150 Dutch dairy farmers have been using this device to reduce the prevalence of Johne’s Disease. The SMET-box emits a combination of weak frequencies (one being around 25 Hz) for one minute at hourly intervals (www.smetparatbc.nl). Farmers using a SMET-box report a decrease in clinical cases of Johne’s Disease in dairy, even for infected cattle that are retained and even if no drastic changes in herd management are implemented. Another advantage is found in the reduction of mastitis.

Since 2006 in the Netherlands, the National Animal Health Service has been running a successful program (BMQAP) to reduce the concentration of MAP bacteria in milk delivered to the factories. The program is based on a series of severe preventive management measures. These measures include destroying infected animals or infected herds, as well as immediate separation of the calf from the mother at birth and no nursing of the mother’s milk to ensure strict hygienic conditions. But it seems that the characteristics of MAP bacteria make it practically impossible to further reduce the prevalence of Johne’s Disease using herd management and monitoring alone. Therefore, further development and/or application of the SME-Technology might help in further reducing the prevalence of the disease, but this requires a better understanding of the technology.

Experiments on two farms in the Netherlands convinced the GD (Dutch Animal Health Service) to propose further research on this technique. GD-vet Dr van Weering advised, “further research, as the method should be standardised. A control group will be required. Relevant risk factors and farm data will have to be documented.” Dr van Weering also wrote a research proposal for 150 000 Euro to further investigate SMET, but it was declined by the National Dairy Research Program NZO.

There has been nothing but silence on the matter since then and Dr van Weering has not commented on why follow-up research has not materialized. According to Mr Mandersloot, from the farmers union LTO Noord, “The funding agency’s board feared that the proposed research setting could not sufficiently be motivated scientifically.”

“A shame”

Mr Straatsma, senior staff of dairy cooperative Friesland Campina admits that he supported the additional research: “Many dairy farmers, informally, are very positive about this SMET-box”, says Straatsma, who still argues in favour of an encompassing research set-up. “But until then, we’ll have to rely on experiential stories from practitioners”, he says.

Dairy farmer Jan van Weperen is more vocal on the matter, “Some years ago I chaired the ‘Network of Energetic Farming’. In horticulture, this technique is already applied much more. It is a shame that the Veterinary Services GD have not been able to realize this research. Also from the perspective of human health risks it should have been explored a long time ago, to be able to conclude ‘it works’ or ‘it doesn’t.’”

Interest

In autumn 2015 the British Bio Dynamic Association showed interest and asked for more background information. However, the only information in English can be found on www.smetparatbc.nl, which is a short translation of Dutch sections into English and on the current GaiaCampus website.

Henk Kieft

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