The rate and structure of cattle transfers between 206 Dutch cattle herds with a 'Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis (Map)-free' status by November 2002, were analyzed over a 3-year period (November 1999-November 2002). Of the 206 'Map-free' herds, 184 were closed herds during the period studied. In total, 280 cattle had been introduced into 22 herds at an average rate of 0.33 animals per year per 100 cattle present in the 206 herds. Assuming a random herd-contact structure, the observed rate of cattle transfers between certified 'Map-free' herds was sufficiently low to relax the surveillance scheme to biennial herd examinations by pooled fecal culture of all cattle > or =2 years of age. The cattle transfers were not randomly distributed over the herds. Forty-four of the 280 cattle originated from 12 other 'Map-free' herds. The other 236 cattle did not originate from a 'Map-free' herd and were introduced into a herd before it obtained the 'Map-free' status. No cattle were introduced into any of the 'Map-free' herds from which cattle were transferred to other 'Map-free' herds. Thus, continued propagation of the infection by cattle transfers was impossible in the group of herds studied during the study period. Therefore the surveillance scheme may be further relaxed, and may be differentiated regarding the risk herds pose to other herds
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