Applying to Veterinary School 101

So you want to become a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine?

Before you answer that question, understand that you have to be completely comfortable with blood, feces, and all other bodily fluids. You also need to be prepared to go to school for at least 8 years and yes, you need to be strong enough to deal with death. Still think you want to give it a shot? Fantastic! I am here to assure you that it is possible and inform you of what steps you need to take to make it through your undergrad and hopefully onto veterinary school.

I am an aspiring veterinarian, but unfortunately I have not made it there just yet. I am a senior Agricultural Science major here at Western Illinois University and will be graduating this upcoming December. I have successfully made it through the application process for veterinary school for the fall of 2018, but I will not find out about my admission until next February-March. Thus, I am still on edge on whether I am a strong enough candidate to get in. However, I have learned what schools are looking for during my time of meeting those requirements. Now I want to pass what I know onto others.

Courtesy of Alexis Kole on Pinterest

First and foremost, you need a high GPA. You do not have to be a 4.0 student (though it never hurts to shoot high). Most schools admit students with an average of a 3.6 GPA. School will become a priority in order to get those high grades. Pre-Veterinary programs involve intense science courses such as microbiology, anatomy/physiology, inorganic chemistry, organic chemistry, and biochemistry to name a few. Many people do not seem to understand that pre-vet students go through the same academic courses as pre-med students do. It is not going to be easy and for a good reason. Students who cannot handle the academic rigor of any pre-professional program will not make it through graduate school. That means if you really want it, you have to work for it.

At WIU, pre-veterinary students can choose to either go through the Biology department or the Agriculture department. I chose the Ag department and I am so thrilled with my decision. The Agriculture department at WIU gave me the hands on experience with animals that I always craved. I plan on working with both small and large animals when practicing veterinary medicine, but even for those who are planning on working strictly with small animals should still go through the Ag department. Before you jump into learning medicine, you must first learn the basics of the animal. For example, how they function, their behavior, and their needs. The Ag department provides this for you. You will get to learn all of these aspects and more. The Ag department also provides core courses that help your social and professional skills such as building a resume and how to act during a formal interview (which is required for veterinary school). If you cannot already tell, I am an advocate for WIU Ag because I truly believe it is going to get me to the next chapter of my life.

Veterinary schools also want undergrads that go beyond just a high GPA. Being an honors student and/or performing undergraduate research are two examples of raising academic status. Students should also get involved in other ways on campus. Schools want to see a well-rounded candidate. Get involved with clubs and organizations and additionally try and gain leadership positions. You should also get involved in your community.

Outside of school in general, experience with animals is a must. There are many ways you can gain animal experience. A job at a clinic is always great, but you can also gain experience through volunteer work at either shelters or farms. Internships are also a great experience builder. Additionally, the university provides experiences as well. The WIU farm offers student employment and there are many study abroad programs that would be beneficial. One thing you must do however, is build a relationship with at least 2 veterinarians. Schools require 3 letters of recommendations and 2 must be from different veterinarians. So keep that in mind while you gain your animal experience. I also advise to have one recommendation from a professor so your academic work can be represented as well.

Once it gets closer to application time, one other requirement is the GRE standardized exam. It is definitely something that should be prepared for. University libraries (at least WIU) offer free prep books for the GRE as well as other standardized exams. Take advantage of them! They are free! As a college student, you will become very fond of the word “free” and unfortunately applying for veterinary schools can be expensive.

So, we have now covered that you need to have a high academic status, be involved on campus and in your community, have lots of animal experience, have relationships with veterinarians, get a good score on the GRE, and still be sane. It sounds a little overwhelming, right? Of course, but it is possible! I cannot express the importance of a quality support system. These are the people (academic or at home) that will continue to push you when you feel overwhelmed and overworked. Do not think that you have to do this alone, open up to those that want to help you. That goes for any future goal you may have, not just vet school. I know I would not be where I am today without my support system, that’s a fact.

Like I already said, school will become a large part of your life. Remember to spend some time on your physical and mental health. Have fun during this time in your life (but not too much fun, schools expect you to keep your public record and social media clean).

Lastly, when it comes time to finally apply for veterinary schools through the VMCAS (Veterinary Medical College Application Service), make sure you have done your research and know the requirements for the schools you want to apply to. Start early and stay calm during the process. When everything is done and submitted, celebrate and be proud of how far you’ve come! My dad consistently says one thing to me during my years in school. He says “always remember to make yourself proud.” This has stuck with me during all the times I was drowning in school work or stressing over applications. It is something that I think everyone should remind themselves when striving for their goals.

Me and Bubba


Hi, Everyone! My name is Kagney Nudd and I am from Dallas City, IL. I am a senior Agricultural Science major here at WIU. As you already know from reading this blog, I plan on going on to veterinary school to get my DVM. I hope this blog was of value to you! If you have any other questions regarding requirements for veterinary school, feel free to shoot me an email at I am happy to help!


Delicious and Nutritious: Ag Students promote Chocolate Milk

IMG_0163At 9:00 am on Saturday, October 14th, the 6th Annual Fallen Soldiers 5K started, and runners began running, jogging, or walking on their way to showing support for our men and women of service. At the end of the 5K, just passed the finish line, there was a group of students gathered around a table with some pamphlets, bright smiles, and roughly 12 crates full of chocolate milk cartons, donated by prairie farms. These were Agriculture students, using their Saturday morning to raise awareness of the health benefits of dairy—specifically chocolate milk—as a part of recovery after a race.

This group of cheerful students, wearing their “I love Milk” shirts, are all enrolled in a “Communicating Agricultural Issues” course here at Western Illinois University, and this particular assignment was to help out runners with their post-race recovery, while teaching people about Dairy. You see, chocolate milk has the ideal blend of proteins, electrolytes, and carbohydrates to help your body recover after a strenuous workout or a race. Various Dairy organizations have begun advertising these facts, and the students of this class decided to bring chocolate milk to the runners of this 5K to help them learn about the benefits first hand.

It was impressive to see it all go down. Newer runners often were surprised at the offer of chocolate milk, not knowing about its benefits, while experienced or returning runners came looking for the Ag students and their delicious recovery drink. “I was surprised at how many people knew about the benefits of chocolate milk” said Landon Reed, another one of the students. Families that had come to watch loved ones run also found their way over to the chocolate milk table, and plenty of kids swung past the table looking for a treat. The Ag students were professional yet friendly, as they handed out cartons and talked about the nutritional benefits chocolate milk offered. Some of the runners came up and were skeptical or derisive of the idea that chocolate milk had such health benefits, but the students continued to maintain a calm politeness as they talked with these runners about the topic.

All in all, the dairy promotion went well. Tired runners happily consumed the chocolate milk, knowing that it would help their bodies replenish the nutrients they needed to improve their running. According to Alex Vanwatermeulen, “the handout went smoothly and people seemed grateful for the milk.” The students packed up shortly after the concluding ceremonies, but it looks like this class will be back to do this promotion again next year, at the next Fallen Soldiers 5K on Oct  27th 2018,  to hand out more delicious and nutritious workout knowledge.

Chemicals are bad…Right?

Fear comes from misunderstanding and lack of knowledge, and these are precisely the reasons that I believe people fear using chemicals as a tool on the farm level. Farm chemicals are feared because they are meant to kill pests; Weeds, insects, fungus, etc. “If these chemicals can kill living things than what can they do to us?” This is the common concern over farm used chemicals and I could see how it could be a valid one, but I am writing this blog today to help grow your knowledge on the subject and therefore diminishing your concerns.

Chemicals used on the farm were developed for specific purposes, herbicides effect weeds, insecticides effect insects, miticides effect mites, etc. but they do not effect each other. Why is that? Each group of chemicals is formulated to affect a specific function of the desired species, for example with insects, its their nervous system, or with plants its to get past the waxy layer and into the phloem and xylem to stop the transfer of sugars, but my point is that they only work on specific targets, which are not humans. Now am I saying that I would drink a cup of Round-up and never get sick? No, but would you drink a cup of bleach? Obviously not, and bleach can burn your skin, but almost every household in America is willing to use it because it is safe when used for its desired purpose, as are all farm chemicals approved by the USDA.

Companies that develop these chemicals ensures that this is the case by rigorous testing. Monsanto’s rerelease of Dicamba beans this year was a huge deal in the agricultural industry, but rereleasing Dicamba beans was not a new idea. Monsanto has been working with different formulations for the past three years and had to wait an extra year for more testing to get this product on the market to ensure safety to people, species of animals and insects. Now thats not saying that their formulation was perfect, they still have a lot of work to do, but as long as the farmer takes the basic safety measures as are involved with any chemicals, including your own household chemicals, of wearing protective gear and reading the label, there is no danger.

Also to be able to spray these chemicals, farmers have to obtain a hazmat applicators license which is no easy feat and involves getting personal information as well as finger printed. Any illegal activity done with chemicals results in fines as well as points on their license. too many points results in loss of a license. There is a lot of incentive for a farmer to do everything appropriately. not to mention that when a label is followed to a “T” the farmer gets the best performance out of that chemical, so why wouldn’t he follow it?

The fear surrounding these chemicals has come from uneducated people that like to post a lot on social media. They have never worked with commercial chemicals and have no connection to production agriculture. Our world population is growing at an alarming rate, and to be able to sustain the lifestyle that we have come accustom to we need to keep growing our efficiency in producing food. Chemicals are a great tool to provide the best conditions for healthy plants to grow and prosper. We need them to continue to try to feed the world. We should appreciate the technology available to us, not fear it. It is our responsibility to continue to expand it so that future generations will be able to keep up with ever growing demands.


My name is Landon Reed, I’m a senior at Western Illinois University with my major in Agriculture Business and a minor in Agronomy. I come from a small town and live on a corn and soybean operation that my family owns. I also work for a farm chemical company and spend a lot of time around chemicals and have a good understanding of what they are and how they work. I also believe that if handled correctly they are perfectly safe and Trust our USDA’s judgement on what is, and what is not safe. I find it very unsettling how easily peoples opinions of these useful tools can be swayed by biased sources on social media.



Chickens, Man’s Best Friend?

I’m going to be honest here, chickens will never be man’s best friend. That spot is unquestionably reserved for dogs. However, chickens do provide a level of functionality that dogs may never reach. Not only are chickens super cheap and easy to own, but they offer numerous benefits to the owner.

Before we get into the benefits, let’s discuss how affordable chickens can be. Many retail farm stores sell chicks in the spring. In fact, the Farm King store in which I work sells around 2,000 chicks each spring. The chicks run from about $2-$4 depending on breed and quantity bought. Chicks eat chick starter grower, which runs $10-15. Bedding will cost you around $5, and heat lamp and bulb will cost you around $12. So, provided you have a spot at home for them, you could join the chicken world with 10 chicks for around $55. Dogs can cost well into the hundreds of dollars from a shelter, let alone from a breeder.

Now you might be saying, “why would I spend my money on a chicken?”, well, there are many reasons. Firstly, chickens are very easy to take care of. They are a very low maintenance animal. All that you have to do is let chickens out and, provided they have enough space, they will find their own food. Now, what if you have neighbors? A good fence and clipping chicken’s wings can keep them in. While chickens are foraging for food, they will provide two services free-of-charge. Chickens will clean up ground that you need cleared and will help control local insect populations. Chicken owners can utilize a “chicken tractor” to ensure that chickens clear out problem weed areas. A “chicken tractor” is essentially a movable cage. You put the chickens in the cage over a problem weed area and the chickens will clean it for you! Chickens obviously wont be able to clear big woody structures like trees and branches, but they are able to effectively clean out many weeds.

Chickens also eat a wide range of insects including; Japanese beetles, ticks, flies, and ants. By owning chickens, you are helping lower insect population in your yard. I think it is fair to mention that chickens won’t eat all types of bugs, and they wont completely clear your yard of insects. However, they will eat many types of bugs and they do it for free.

Have you ever wanted to make an omelet or cake, only to realize that you are out of eggs? Chickens can help solve this problem. They will lay 3-6 eggs per week, depending on the breed. This means that when your 10 hens are laying, you will get over 30 eggs per week. These can be used at home, shared with relatives, or even sold. Your friends and family will go nuts for the farm-fresh eggs.

Finally you might be saying, dogs and cats are friendly, chickens are not. This is a huge misconception. Chickens are like any other animal, if you give them attention, they will become docile, friendly, and even cuddly. In fact this past spring, I brought one of my chickens, Hilda, into a 5th grade class room. She was very well-behaved and showed the students how nice chickens can be.


If you are interested in beginning a chicken adventure, consult your local retail farm store. They will have all you need to get started. Before you do, make sure that you consult local codes. Some cities allow residents to own up to a certain amount of chickens. If you do decide to raise chickens, you will get the benefits of eggs, weed clearing, and less insects. But you will also realize that chickens are just so darn cute!


Hello! My name is Colton Downs and I call Canton, Illinois home. I am a senior agriculture education major at Western Illinois University. I grew up on a small livestock operation, with a few goats, sheep, and chickens. Thank you for taking the time to read my blog!


Antibiotic Free Meat

Whether you’re from a small town, or a big city, I’m sure you’re aware of the questions surrounding the use of antibiotics in livestock production.  The increasing gap between the average consumer and the farm is no doubt a driving factor in the heated debate.  Most consumers don’t genuinely understand where their food comes from, or how it is raised. To me, it is completely understandable to be questioning the practices in use today in livestock production.  After all, more than 80% of the protein in the U.S. Diet comes from meat.

Back to the beginning

Paul Ehrlich and Alexander Fleming are largely embraced as the fathers of antibiotics. Arsphenamine, introduced in 1910 under the name Salvarsan, was the first antibiotic, and the first organic cure for Syphilis.  In 1942 Bynzylpenicillin entered the market as Penicillin G, primarily used in an effort to treat wounded soldiers. By the end of the war, a team of veterinarians were able to reconstitute the antibiotic with saline solution for intramammary infusions in an effort to treat Bovine Mastitis.  Since then, antibiotics have been used in livestock to treat, prevent, and cure disease.  Penicillin is still on the World Health Organization’s list of Essential Medicines.

Antibiotics Today

In order to ensure food quality, as well as proper animal husbandry practices, antibiotics are heavily regulated throughout the world.  A major concern with their use is contaminated meat entering the food chain.  The use of “withdrawal periods” on medicine labels help combat this.  Withdrawal periods are derived from extensive research on livestock and their ability to process, utilize, and essentially remove an antibiotic within their system.  These help producers understand when it is the right time to market their livestock.  After the BSE (Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, or “Mad Cow Disease”) outbreak in 2003, the USDA decided it needed a way to hold growers accountable.  Today, each animal harvested can be traced back to the farm it was raised on, where extensive vet records are kept.

More recent than premise ID numbers are VFDs. Issued January 1st, 2017, Veterinary Feed Directives limit the use of antibiotics in feed or water.

Image result for vfd tags livestock
Credit: Mississippi State University

When VFDs were initially introduced, many questions arose from within the livestock industry as a whole.  However after just a few months, they realized that it was something they had been doing all along, just with more paperwork.  In the push to combat antibiotic resistant bacteria, VFDs look to eliminate the extended use of antibiotics.  This means that their use to promote growth is no longer an option.  Although this regulation may be fairly new, producers haven’t used antibiotics at growth levels for several years. While VFDs certainly offer a few more hoops to jump through in livestock production, they also help foster a close relationship between farms and veterinarians.


Related image
Credit: University of California

Still, every once in a while, an animal that has been treated with medication is sent to market before the predetermined withdrawal time is up.  Fortunately, there’s protocols in place to safeguard the general public against contaminated meat.  Meat packers test carcasses for antibiotics in ppb (parts per billion) to look for the most minute traces.  If they find antibiotics in any meat, the plant must shut down to be sterilized.  This process can take many hours or even a full work day, which costs the plant a large sum of money.  Generally speaking, the producer that caused the plant to shut down is no longer welcome to market their stock with that particular processer.  Due to the strict regulations in place by the FDA and the USDA, ALL meat in the U.S. food chain is ANTIBIOTIC FREE.


With the proper use of antibiotics, producers are able to keep herd health up, and in turn maximize efficiency.  Although many consumers disagree with the use of antibiotics in livestock production, there’s no harm in eating meat from an animal that was treated for an illness, as long as the proper steps for treating and harvesting that animal have been taken.  Through extensive research, with the help of premise ID numbers, VFDs, and close regulations, American consumers should rest easy knowing they’re being offered a quality, harmless product.


Hello, my name is Brenen Diesen. Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling I am a senior at Western Illinois University, where I am pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Ag Business, with a minor in Animal Science.  Before coming to Macomb, I attended Lake Land College in Mattoon, Il.  Ever since I could remember I have had a passion for livestock, especially pigs.  I grew up on a small grain and livestock farm in Southern Illinois where we specialized in raising show pigs.  Through my involvement in 4-H and FFA, I have been able to travel the country and meet new people every day.  I hope to be able to make it back home some day to run cows and raise show pigs, but I also look forward to the new opportunities presented every day in agriculture!

Why the Workforce needs Generation Z !!


Generation Z, often confused with Millennials; Millennials were born between 1977-1994. I feel the Millennials have given the Gen Z’s a bad rap; the average tenure of a Millennial is two years. Millennials prefer close relationships with their bosses/managers; they prefer to be coached and rewarded. Millennials often prefer working in teams; this could attribute to their reputation of lacking discipline. The Millennials have the highest college educated population; therefore they feel that they are entitled to a good position and excellent pay when they start working. The do not understand that they need to work their way up the ladder; their dislike for menial tasks may attribute to the bad rap as well.

Generation Z is comprised of those who were born after 1995. I would like for employers to understand the positive contributions that Generation Z can offer. Gen Z’s are more diverse, more technologically competent and are excellent multi-taskers. Gen Z’s want to work for honest leaders, they want to be taken seriously. They enjoy face to face communication; traditional methods of communication are preferred as opposed to emails and messaging. Generation Z enjoys meeting with managers and handling phone calls; they are realistic and accepting. Gen Z’s are easily mentored and prepared to work with everyone. Generation Z is known to enjoy collaborations but they are still willing to work hard and independently. Gen Z’s have never known a world without technology, yet they value tradition and honesty. Therefore Gen Z’s work well with all five generations, including: Post-War Silents, Baby Boomers, Generation X’ers, Millennials, as well as, Generation Z.

5 Generation Chart

Generational differences and similarities are known to cycle through time; I believe this is 100% true. Gen Z‘s have more in common with Post-War Silents than anyone could possibly imagine. Post-War Silents grew up during the depression while Gen Z’s grew up during the recession; both generations are known to repurpose, recycle, reuse and save. Gen Z’s watched the Millennials move back with their parents when they couldn’t find a job. Both generations have grown up during periods of crisis; Post-War Silents grew up in the repercussions of World War II while Gen Z’s have been shaped by the events of 9/11 and war.

I’m proud to be born into Generation Z. I know that I have a good working relationship with people of all ages. I have worked at Frese Ornamental Nursery for the past two years with men and women of various ages. We all tend to work well together and share a special bond. I organized a group photo and I really like how it turned out; we have workers representing four generations: baby boomers, gen x’ers, millennials and gen z’s. I really think this diversity is something that all employers should strive for; integrity, knowledge, technology and youthful energy… together this blend will drive a business forward. You will only get this powerful combination by comprising a generationally diverse workforce.

Nicole Sill who is a sales yard manager at Frese Ornamental Nursery;  she has worked for 10 years at the nursery. She graduated John Wood Community College (JWCC) with her Associates of Applied Science (A.A.S.)  in Horticulture; she believes that having multiple generation can be very beneficial to a company. The different generation bring different ideas that helps all of us learn from each other. She said, “managing different generations can be difficult because each generation has a different way of learning.” When she conducts an interview, she doesn’t look at age so much as if they are the right fit for the company and can get the job done in a timely matter.

Gen Z’s are beginning to graduate from college and are looking for an employer who will value their unique skill set. Generation Z’s will be a perfect fit for most employers; they already have work experience and they get along well with all generations. Gen Z’s may be the easiest of all generations to add to your team. Generation Z has a lot to offer; they are wise beyond their years, hard-working and level headed. I hope that employers will look beyond age and give Gen Z’s a chance to prove themselves.

For Further Information on Generational Differences….

The Six Living Generation in American

Generations X,Y, Z and the Others

Generational Differences Chart

Gen Z Kids Are Like Their Great-Grandparents. Here’s Why.

8 Key Differences between Gen Z and Millennials

Millennials In The Workplace: They Don’t Need Trophies But They Want Reinforcement

Gen Z Employees: The 5 Attributes You Need to Know

Meet The Author:


Hello, I am Kylee Johnston; I am 20 years old and I grew up on a small family farm in Memphis, Missouri. I am a Gen Z; I have been employed for quarter of my life. I have worked for a small landscaper and a family owned ornamental nursery. I have always worked well with mature co-workers. As a Gen Z, I have contemplated starting my own business and have read several articles that address the difficulties of finding a workforce willing to do physical labor. This research is what ultimately led to me researching generational differences in the work force.

I am currently a junior at Western Illinois University, studying Agriculture Science and Precision Agriculture. I am involved with CFFA/PAS, Ag Mech, Forestry, and Agronomy clubs at WIU. I am also a Hancock County Farm Bureau Young Leaders Member.



The Silent Killer

Introduction to the author

I am Keely Egelhoff, a senior at Western Illinois University where I study Agriculture Business. I come from a grain and livestock farm in southern Illinois where we raise hogs, cattle, corn, soybeans, and alfalfa. Growing up I was always interested in agriculture but I can distinctly remember the day that I decided I wanted to spend my life pursuing a career in the agriculture industry.17457271_214015719078872_3723617621233345242_n.jpg

It is a tradition in our family that most of the men do the farming and the women do the housework. However, I was ready to change all of that. I would spend hours with my father and grandfather sorting hogs, or cattle, building a fence or learning how to drive. Then at night, I would learn how to cook and sew from my mother. Instead of staying in the house during the summer months I was in the hay barn playing with the kittens or new puppies we had. As I got older I gained more responsibility. My father taught me how to drive the grain truck and encouraged me to continue to learn new things.

Entering my freshman year of high school my father had one soybean field left to plant. I asked him to teach me how to plant the field. Without any guidance units on our farms, we have to know how to plant straight and not drift. While some may call us crazy and inefficient I think it makes us more aware of what is going on in the cab. I also think that it provides us with the opportunity to understand the field, the machine and what to do if something happens. As my father jumped off the tractor to let me take over I became a bit nervous. I finally had the responsibility to put the money on the ground as we like to call it. The crop I was planting will eventually help pay for the seed next year and I knew I needed to plant straight and correctly in order to provide the best chance for success. As I was driving along I looked out around me and realized that I could not live a life without some form of agriculture. In my head that day I made the decision to pursue a passion for agriculture.

As I continued through high school I became an officer in my FFA chapter which led me to make connections with other students who had a passion for business, agriculture, animals, science, math and a wide variety of topics. I love agriculture because it connects every facet of life. It touches everyone in every state in every corner of the world. While there are still many people out there who do not understand everything about agriculture I know it is my duty to inform them.

College Aggies Online

I hope to gain a better understanding of who to effectively communicate agriculture to through College Aggies Online. Currently, I have had to step out of my comfort zone and create social media accounts to enable myself to reach more people. I also hope to be able to communicate with people who did not grow up around the agriculture industry. Where I come from most people understand the basic concepts of agriculture but I know I can still help them learn about more in-depth topics like biotechnology, precision agriculture, and even educate them more on livestock diseases. My time at Western has given me the ability to learn more about each of these topics and with further instruction, I hope to be able to communicate their importance.

Career goal

My future career goal is to own and operate my own cattle company. I would like to have two sales a year one showcasing Angus cattle and the other, Simmental cattle. I will sell bulls, breeding stock, and feeder calves. I have always had a passion for cattle and hope to one day be able to share this with others.

Interests in agriculture

My main interests in agriculture are in animal science specifically beef and swine but also in crop sciences. I have spent a great deal of time working for companies in the crop sciences along with attending many classes on various topics of agronomy. However, I have a slightly larger passion for animal science. While I have never taken an animal science class here at Western my passion comes from my childhood. My parents grew up raising commercial and show cattle. While I never showed cattle growing up I fell in love with marketing commercial cattle and hogs. During my time here at Western I have worked alongside the beef herd team taking care of the beef herd at school. Western is home to one of the largest annual Performance Bull Sales in the state of IL  and we pride ourselves on the care and dedication the beef team has for these animals. Along with producers bringing in bulls to our facilities, we keep on average 60 head of cows in a nearby facility. These cows are used for animal science class labs and also for breeding purposes. We breed the cows each year and the calves are then sold or kept depending on their gender and the need of the farm.

During preparations for the annual Performance Bull Sale one test, we ask all the producers perform is a blood test for Johne’s disease. As explained below this is a disease that can happen in any herd and is easily spread to young cattle. In order for our facilities to stay Johne’s free, we ask everyone including ourselves to test for this disease. I titled this blog The Silent Killer because of this disease. The symptoms do not show up until the animal is 2-6 years old and there is no cure. I believe that this is something many people in the agriculture industry may not know about but could be very detrimental to their operation.

Johne’s Disease

What is it?

Johne’s disease (pronounced “Yo-knees”), also known as paratuberculosis, is a long-standing infection that causes a very gradual thickening of the intestines reducing the nutrients the cow can absorb. This resulting in weight loss, diarrhea and eventually death. Johne’s disease primarily affects cattle and other ruminants but has also been reported in pigs.

Johne’s disease is seen in many cattle operations and can strike a lot of fear in the producers if they do not have a lot of experience with the disease. Just recently I was able to sit in on an animal reproduction class covering Johne’s disease and a few other diseases found commonly in cattle. During this class, the professor asked the local veterinarian to attend class and give a short presentation on the disease. Following the presentation, the vet demonstrated one method of testing for the disease.

How do cows become infected?

A bacterium named Mycobacterium avium ss.paratuberculosis (let’s abbreviate that long name to “MAP”) causes Johne’s disease. Cows/calves can become infected in multiple ways. Many are infected as young calves but will not show any signs until they are adults (Beef Cattle Research Council). Infection can be spread in multiple ways. The most common are

  • Ingesting

    Capture cattle.PNG
    Photo credit: Beef Cattle Research Council.
  • Utero transmission
  • Reproduction
  • Introduction to infected herd

While not every infected animal will show signs once the disease is in a herd it is very easily spread. There are many preventative steps a herdsman can take to try and prevent infection. These preventative measures should be completed as efficiently as possible.


Symptoms usually do not appear until 2-6 years of age. When they do appear it seems that the cattle are just sick or it happens so fast a herdsman may not notice it until several animals are sick. One of the most common symptoms is diarrhea and rapid weight loss. Diarrhea can throw any experienced herdsman off in just believing the cattle are eating a healthy diet. The animals will continue to eat, however, no matter the amount of food given to the animal it cannot gain weight. It will take a laboratory test to confirm that an infected animal truly has Johne’ s. In the end, the animal will pass away due to lack of nutrients despite the amount of food it consumes.


Little can be done after the infection has been identified in the herd for the animal. Prevention comes into play for the other animals in the herd. Before any animal is identified it is always a good idea to have all cattle tested for Johne’s. Another measure is keeping the pens as clean as possible. This is especially essential during calving season. Cow/calf pairs should be removed from the birthing pen as soon as possible. This will help eliminate the chance that the newborn calf becoming infected. Also making sure cattle have clean water and milk for the calves is imperative. If adult cattle become infected remove them from the herd and keep them separate. While there are some antibiotics to help subside the side effect ultimately the animal will die.

So what?

This disease is one that can happen overnight. There is still confusion on why the disease will stay dormant for so long. Johne’s can destroy a herd if proper measures are not taken. Calves are what the herdsman will make their money from, without them the whole operation can fail. The best way to keep this out of your herd is to not introduce it. When purchasing new cattle from the sale barn it is best to have them tested by a vet. If one comes back positive remove them from the herd and sell it for processing. Also, alert the seller of your findings so they can start their own investigation of their herds. Using these methods an operation can stay Johne’s free.

For more information visit these following websites.

Johne’s Information Center– Facts and regulations about Johne’s

Beef Cattle Research Council– Facts and illustrations