Common Health Issues

Today’s dairy cows, in Canada and elsewhere, face two main health issues: mastitis and Johne’s disease.


All lactating animals, including humans, are susceptible to contracting mastitis. Dairy cows produce a lot of milk and all producers face the problem of mastitis at one time or another on their farms. Some mastitis requirement antibiotic treatment, some don’t. It is estimated that Canadian dairy producers lose about $300 million to mastitis every year because mastitis reduces milk production, can cause early culling and veterinarian care is needed. Moreover, producers must discard milk when cows are treated with antibiotics.

DFC has helped set up and finance the Canadian Bovine Mastitis Network in 2001 to enhance the research and knowledge about mastitis in dairy cows. In the past years, the Network has done tremendous work in helping producers and veterinarians better understand and recognize mastitis, prevent it and treat it correctly.

The Network’s website contains information on the research done, the opportunities for graduate student studies, a toolbox of information and tips for farmers and veterinarians, a monthly newsletter and more.

Prevention and control of Johne’s disease on Canadian dairy farms

Another health problem faced by dairy cows is Johne’s disease or paratuberculosis. It is a very difficult disease to control as no signs of disease are seen for years after infection and most infected cows never show signs. It is similar to Crohn’s disease in humans.

Animals usually become infected as calves. The disease is spread through feed, water, udders that become contaminated with manure from infected animals. Calves may also be infected through colostrum or milk from infected cows. This is why prevention through rigorous hygiene and biosecurity measures is the best way farmers around the world currently have to control the disease.

Dairy producers are concerned because this disease can have a significant financial impact in a dairy herd through reduced milk production, increased involuntary culling, loss of heifer sales, and reduced beef production. Johne's disease may also be associated with an increased incidence of other diseases.

The Canadian Johne’s Disease Initiative (CJDI) was created to reduce the prevalence of Johne’s disease in Canadian herds. CJDI is a collaborative activity of industry, governments and veterinary schools, led by Dairy Farmers of Canada (DFC), the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (CCA) and the Canadian Animal Health Coalition (CAHC). The initiative focuses on:

  1. Education and awareness of farmers, veterinarians and others who can help farmers control the disease on their farms.
  2. Coordinating efforts, messages, extension services, discussion on minimal program standards in the various provinces.
  3. Monitoring and understanding research that is ongoing about this disease throughout the world and encouraging collaboration for research in Canada.

DFC has sent all dairy producers a check list of ways to prevent the spread of the disease on their farms and well as various risk factors to control. You can download the brochure here .

Learn more about proAction