Whether you’re raising dairy or beef cattle, the health of your herd is directly tied to production and your livelihood. This guide to some of the most common cow diseases and symptoms will help you understand potential illnesses that can affect your herd and ways you can prevent them. Always contact your veterinarian if you suspect any illness and for treatment of illnesses in your herd.

1. Bovine Mastitis

Bovine mastitis refers to inflamed udder tissue in the mammary gland of dairy cattle. According to researchers at Konkuk University’s Department of Food Science and Biotechnology of Animal Resources, bovine mastitis is one of the most common dairy cattle diseases. It causes the most significant economic losses for farmers. It can have several different causes, including physical trauma and infection, and the severity of cases can be influenced by age, nutritional deficits, breed of cattle, and environmental factors.

Antibiotics prescribed by a veterinarian typically treat mastitis, but there are steps you can take to prevent new infections, including:

  • Maintaining clean, comfortable living areas for your cows, including dry bedding and good ventilation
  • Meeting dairy cattle energy needs during lactation with high-quality feed, such as those offered by Star Blends
  • Practicing good milking hygiene and maintaining milking machines

2. Salmonellosis

The Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine describes Salmonellosis as “an infection of the digestive tract caused by the bacterium Salmonella enterica.” There are many different types of Salmonella, and it can spread to humans, birds, and other animals. Salmonellosis can spread quickly, and though immunocompromised animals are the most likely to get sick, even seemingly healthy cows can become very ill.

Salmonellosis can result in lower milk production, high costs associated with treatment, and even death of animals. Salmonella bacterium commonly spreads through contaminated feed and water, often via infected animals such as birds and rodents, and is highly contagious. To help prevent salmonellosis infections in your herd:

Isolate replacement animals.

Keep new animals isolated to prevent the spread of unknown contaminants.

Sanitize equipment.

Always sanitize any equipment when using different animals.

Avoid contaminated food and water.

Keep feed and water protected from bird and rodent contamination.

Prevent wastewater contamination.

Ensure wastewater and feces do not run into animal enclosures, feed, or water sources.

Use separate equipment.

Keep all equipment for feed and manure separate. For example, don’t use the same shovel for manure that you use for hay.

Monitor animal health.

Monitor cow health, feed high-quality feed, vaccinate regularly, and provide comfortable, low-density shelter to maintain herd health and comfort.

3. Bovine Viral Diarrhea

Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine calls Bovine Viral Diarrhea (BVD) “one of the costliest diseases of cattle.” The Bovine Viral Diarrhea Virus causes BVD and can affect cattle of any kind. BVD is especially dangerous for cattle that are not vaccinated, and they can suffer from bloody diarrhea, high fever, pneumonia, and sometimes death. Pregnant cows who become infected may not carry calves to term or may deliver calves that are “persistently infected.” Persistently infected calves carry the disease and infect other animals for the rest of their lives.

Vaccination is the first line of defense against BVD and is very effective in preventing BVD in your herd. In addition to ensuring that your cattle are fully vaccinated, ensure biosecurity by maintaining a closed herd or testing and vaccinating all new animals.

4. Johne’s Disease

Johne’s disease is a small intestine infection caused by a bacterium related to leprosy and tuberculosis. According to the USDA, Johne’s disease is found in about 68% of U.S. dairy herds and can also affect beef cattle (and even goats and sheep). Animals infected with Johne’s disease may have a normal appetite but suffer from diarrhea and weight loss. This is due to a thickening of the intestines, which have stopped absorbing nutrients. Cattle tend to appear healthy for years after they become infected.

The prevention of Johne’s disease essentially involves protecting newborn calves, keeping a closed herd, or only purchasing animals from herds that test negative. Newborns must also be protected from contaminated manure, colostrum, and milk.

5. Lameness

Lameness is a broad term that can refer to many conditions in cattle, but all pertain to difficulty walking and abnormal posture due to hoof and joint problems. Lameness is often caused by hoof lesions, trauma, infections, laminitis, digital dermatitis, and injuries and can affect beef and dairy cattle.

Animals can be very good at hiding lameness, unlike common cattle diseases with symptoms such as diarrhea. They may limp (often indicated by an unusual head bob while they walk), show a shortened stride, or have a pronounced, arched back. Noticing and diagnosing lameness can depend on your careful eye on your herd. The University of Minnesota Extension cites the following measures as lameness preventatives:

  • Regular passes through the foot bath
  • Frequent hoof trimmings by a professional
  • Focus on cow comfort with soft, clean bedding and rubber floor mats
  • Balanced and complete nutrition to help avoid laminitis

Star Blends Has the Complete Nutrition Your Herd Needs

At Star Blends, we recommend working with your veterinarian and nutritionist to help prevent and cure any illness you may run into.

Balanced and complete nutrition is crucial to your herd’s health, production levels, and more. Star Blends partners with your nutritionist to create a high-quality feed that gives your herd the nutrients and energy they need to stay healthy and productive. Contact our team to learn more about our custom cattle feed services.