Cattle and cancer

By Connie Orcutt • Published: January 1st, 2017
Category: Animal Airwaves

Like other animals, cattle have their health problems. You just might not think of cancer as one of them.

Malignant lymphosarcoma develops after infection by the bovine leukemia virus, or BLV. The virus spreads by exchange of body fluids, use of blood-contaminated equipment or bites from horseflies.

Although not infectious to humans, over 80 percent of US dairy herds include BLV-infected cattle. While fewer than 2 percent of these animals develop lymphosarcoma, it can have serious health and economic effects.

Fortunately, an inexpensive blood test can identify infected animals, who may then be separated from the rest of the herd. Equipment should be used only once or disinfected between animals, and insect control is essential.

Of course, the herd’s veterinarian is also an integral part of developing a herd health plan.