What is Bovine Papillomatosis?
Bovine papillomatosis is caused when cattle become infected with bovine papillomavirus. Physically observable symptoms are produced primarily by two of the four types of the virus which can survive for weeks or months in the environment. This virus is highly infectious and calves are very susceptible to it. BPV primarily enters the animal through skin that has been cut or abraded. Bovine papillomatosis most often expresses itself as skin lesions or warts. However, cattle can still be carriers of the virus without showing observable symptoms. BPV can cause cancer of the upper gastrointestinal tract and papillomas (benign epithelial tumors that project outward) may develop on the teats, udder, and penis of cattle.
How can BPV be controlled in the herd?
Commercial vaccines are available to help prevent contraction of the virus in cattle that were not previously infected. Because the virus can survive in the environment for a period of time, it is important to disinfect halters, ropes, and instruments that have been used on infected cattle. A 2-4% solution of formaldehyde can be used for disinfecting. When tagging or tattooing calves, the pliers should be disinfected between each use, rinsing off any blood or tissue before immersing in formaldehyde. Using two sets of instruments during this process will provide adequate time to inactivate the virus in formaldehyde without sacrificing too much time waiting. Tack can also be disinfected with formaldehyde.
Why is controlling BPV important?
Cattle that are infected with bovine papillomatosis will be disqualified from shows and exhibitions. Cows that have papillomas on their teat(s) cannot be milked and calves cannot suckle. If the papillomas snap off the area may become infected increasing the possibility of mastitis occurring.
Katie Steffen is the Agriculture Intern for the Duval County Extension Office. She is currently majoring in Agronomy and Grazing Systems at University of Nebraska-Lincoln.