Mich. farmers target cow disease

Published February 4, 2008

HANCOCK, Mich.- Cattle producers in the western Upper Peninsula are taking part in a program aimed at studying a disease that causes diarrhea, listlessness and loss of appetite in cows.

Bovine Viral Diarrhea Virus does not spread from cows to humans, The Daily Mining Gazette of Houghton reported recently. Under the study, skin samples will be taken from cows and sent to researchers for testing.

"A good analogy is the common cold," said Ben Bartlett, a veterinarian with the Michigan State University Extension in Chatham. "A cow will sneeze or breathe on another cow and there you have a fluids transfer, same as you or I shaking hands with someone who has sneezed on their hands."

Bartlett said most cows that get the virus develop immunity, but some young calves have a shortened life span.

The extension office in Chatham is taking the lead testing western U.P. farms. Bartlett said Pfizer Animal Health, which is funding the effort, asked Michigan State for input on where to start testing.

"They wanted to do it in a geographically isolated area," Bartlett said.

Michigan State hosted an initial series of meetings throughout the U.P. in December explaining the procedure to producers.

If enough farms join the project, it could be extended to the rest of the U.P.