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New MSU study may lead to reducing bovine leukemia

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Bovine leukemia is a disease that weakens the immune system of cows and shortens life expectancy. According to Michigan State University, the virus is so prevalent that roughly 40% of cows in a single herd have it.

The goal of this latest study was to see if researchers could eliminate the disease in herds with low infection rates through testing.

Phil Durst is stationed at the Ogemaw County Extension office. He said testing young cows earlier can help eliminate the disease for the herd’s overall long-term health.

"We also found that we can identify the absence of disease by a sample from the bulk tank, that is, the tank that holds all the milk for the milking. We could actually test that and say, this herd does not have the disease," said Durst.

Additionally, the study revealed that farmers can test the milk produced by a herd to understand the prevalence of the virus. The study found that catching the virus from milk samples early in a cow's life can help eliminate the prevalence of the disease for future generations of a cow's offspring.

"If we can keep animals from becoming effective as young stock, that enables us to more rapidly eliminate the disease among the adult animals," said Durst.

There is no cure or vaccine for bovine leukemia and there is no evidence that the virus poses any risk to food safety or jumps to humans.

Rick joined WCMU as a general assignment reporter in March 2022.