Texas, New Mexico officials investigate mystery dairy cattle illness

Texas, New Mexico, and USDA are investigating a mystery illness affecting milk cows.

Dr. Brian Bohl with the Texas Animal Health Commission tells Brownfield the illness was reported around March 7th but has been affecting dairy cows since early February. “It doesn’t appear to affect the dry cows or the dry heifers. It doesn’t appear to affect fresh cows or fresh heifers, but it appears to affect mid-lactation cows generally middle-aged to older cows.”

Bohl says the affected dairies have between two and ten percent of their herds affected, and producers are watching the symptoms using modern technology. “What they’re seeing with these cows is their rumen activity significantly decreases and then the guys doing the milking in the dairy are starting to see a change in the milk consistency.”

He says the milk gets thicker like colostrum, and the cows show other symptoms. “The cows generally decrease their feed intake and they may or may not have a fever, and some of them have a transient diarrhea that turns to kind of a tacky-type stool. We haven’t been seeing any mortalities related to this.”

Bohl says some cows have been culled, but most recover. “A lot of these cattle will return to normal consistency with respect to milk in about ten to fourteen days, but they don’t always get their volume back.”

Audio: Dr. Brian Bohl discusses the mystery dairy cow illness with Brownfield’s Larry Lee

The Texas panhandle has most of the reported cases, but New Mexico State Veterinarian Dr. Samantha Uhrig tells Brownfield they’ve seen some cases, too. “There’s no impact on beef cattle. We’re not seeing any impact on dry cattle or heifers.”

AUDIO: Dr. Samantha Uhrig discusses the mystery dairy cow illness with Brownfield’s Larry Lee

She tells Brownfield that like Texas, they do not have any animal movement restrictions. “We have not imposed any restrictions but we are carefully monitoring the movement and certainly researching previous movements to try to help with any sort of epidemiological investigation.”

Uhrig says multiple agencies are working to identify the cause of the illness. “There’s a tremendous amount of testing underway right now and a lot that has already been done, and pretty good coordination at the national and state level to try to streamline and focus how we are collecting those samples and how we’re testing.”

Bohl says they are looking for both affected and unaffected cattle from impacted dairies to test at the lab as they try to figure out what the illness is.

Producers have been encouraged to step up farm biosecurity measures to prevent the spread of this and other illnesses.

  • Higher building up of sulfur in respiratory system caused by feeding DDGS and other wet milled products containing sulfuric acids residue. Burning lungs setting up perfect places for viruses to set in grow and spread. The nightmare of health problems put on dairy farmers has destroyed us. If you want the details then email me back. I will detail the hole thing. We’ve done been trough it and you will get a better understanding on what’s went wrong in our food systems.

  • Sulfur content in DDGS is 0.35 to 1.4% is really a health concern. In addition, higher amounts of phosphorus is also a concern that might alter calcium homeostasis for lactating cows.

  • DDGS also may alter gut microbiome in particular increasing numbers of bacteria who loves sulfur. All these together, high level of phosphorus may alter/ lower blood calcium level that may affect rumen motility, too much sulfur in DDGS may affect consistency of milk.

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