Johne’s disease in cattle

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Interviews with Dr. Tamara GullGull photo

Johne’s disease is a contagious, chronic and usually fatal condition that affects primarily cattle and is a serious problem for cattle producers.

This disease is caused by a bacterium, related to those that cause leprosy and tuberculosis. It has historically been a problem in dairy cattle, but is becoming an increasing problem in beef cattle as well.

When calves are born they can become exposed to contaminated manure and contract the disease. They may show no signs until several years later in life, when they develop chronic diarrhea and begin to lose weight. There is no vaccine and no treatment for Johne’s disease, which is progressive. It will result in the infected animal being culled, or removed from the herd.

Llamas and Alpacas can also get this disease.

The best practice to prevent this untreatable disease is to have cows birth their calves on clean pasture with minimal manure contamination. Cattle producers should maintain a closed herd, and only introduce new animals after they’ve been tested for this disease.

Your veterinarian can submit samples to the Oklahoma Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory to help protect your herd from Johne’s Disease.