University of Calgary

Controlling cattle infections

April 15, 2009

Controlling cattle infections

This year, thousands of dairy calves will be born in Canada.  As many as half of them could quickly become infected with a devastating disease. Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis or MAP is the organism that causes Johne’s disease in cattle and it costs the Canadian cattle industry between $15 and $90 million a year.

UCVM’s Dr. Jeroen De Buck is leading a research team that will investigate an important control mechanism; the prevention of new infections in a herd.

“The current understanding is that if calves aren’t infected by the age of six months, they will not develop an infection,” says De Buck. 

“Farmers across the country rely on this assumption, yet it has never been proven. We want to determine whether calves can become infected at a later age and if so improve current prevention and herd management programs and better understand the infection process,” he adds.

Funding of more than $600,000 over three years is provided by the Alberta Agricultural Research Institute, which includes Alberta Milk and Alberta Livestock Industry Development Fund, the Dairy Farmers of Canada and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.

Johne’s is a debilitating chronic disease that affects the intestines of all ruminant animals, including cattle, sheep and goats. Currently, there is no treatment for Johne’s disease.

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