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Cattle Warts: The Good, The Bad, The Bumpy

cattle deworming

I have received several calls lately from cattle producers who have cattle wart problems this year. Producers who claim they have never had wart problems before. Perhaps it is just the year for cattle warts: the stars have aligned, the weather conditions are just right, or maybe some underlying factor(s) have led to a lower level of immunity in their herd this year. The main manufacturer of the cattle wart vaccine is having difficulty getting warts to extract the virus to make vaccine at this time, and the beef cattlemen that I have spoken with are NOT interested in cutting off warts to send. It seems we are in a quandary.

Cattle Warts: Fast Facts

Rachel Endecott, Beef Specialist at Montana State University explains that there are 6 strains of bovine papillomavirus (BPV) that cause warts on various parts of the body on cattle. She elaborates that BPV spreads through direct contact (animal touching animal) or indirect contact with feeders, waterers, halters, handling equipment, and instruments. Endecott also explains that younger animals are more susceptible to the virus, possibly due to their immune system transitioning from relying on the mother’s transferred immunity to an established immune system of their own.

Keep It Clean

Cattle Wart PicturesA few facts about cattle warts prevention from Purdue School of Veterinary Medicine:

  1. Vaccinate young animals (if warts have been spotted among the herd)
  2. Disinfect tack and instruments (bleach works best)
  3. Clean up work surfaces

For best results, use multiple sets of tools to limit the spread of disease.

Cattle Wart Prevention, Not Treatment

Treatment of cattle warts varies. Vaccination is a proven and effective preventative. The vaccine is not a treatment, although many believe it to be. Surgical removal of cattle warts is another common practice but the Merck Veterinary Manual states that “surgical removal is recommended if warts are sufficiently objectionable” (meaning the cattle owner does not want to see warts on the cattle).  Removing cattle warts at maximum size, or when beginning to regress, will result in a more successful surgical removal.

My personal experience with cattle warts is limited to a few weaned calves a year. As ugly as warts are, they really don’t cause any problems (depending on location). Warts on heifers should clear on their own, while warts on bulls require urgent intervention. Heifer warts that did not clear up were removed with a scalpel, sometimes more than once, in hopes that they would not return. By the time a heifer was two, she was usually wart free. If she wasn’t then she went to market. Bull calves generally had their warts removed when they were first noticed and if necessary the next time the calf or his mother came to the chute. Bulls with warts at weaning were culled, even though they would be docked at the sale for the physical blemish.

Help Wanted

Cattle Wart Vaccine by Colorado SerumWith limited availability of cattle wart vaccines, cattle producers should remember that warts are a self-limiting affliction. Cattle warts should regress and disappear on their own, but often cattle owners do not like the waiting process. Consult with your veterinarian before surgically removing warts. As a courtesy, I am including the vaccine manufacturer’s contact information. Anyone interested in selling cattle warts for the production of vaccines can reach Colorado Serum Company at 303-295-7527. Perhaps selling cattle warts could prove profitable for everyone this year.


Leigh Ann Ennis is Jeffers’ Livestock Marketing Manager. Leigh Ann holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Dairy and Animal Science from Penn State University. She also holds a Master’s in Psychology from Troy University. Born and raised on a dairy farm in Pennsylvania, Leigh Ann has been in production agriculture her entire life. She, her husband, and her 2 children reside on a 250-acre farm in Florida.

Have More Questions? Reach out to Leigh Ann or Jeffers’ Livestock Specialist, JR Miles. Contact Leigh Ann at 1-800-533-3377 or lennis@jefferspet.com. Reach JR Miles at 1-800-533-3377 or jrmiles@jefferspet.com.

For Cattle Wart Vaccine availability, call 1-800-533-3377 where a Jeffers’ Customer Service Representative will gladly assist you.