Colostrum and milk as risk factors for infection with Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis in dairy cattle

S. S. Nielsen, H. Bjerre, Nils Toft

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Mycobacterium avium ssp. paratuberculosis (MAP) infections cause major losses to the dairy industry. Transmission of MAP occurs primarily via feces and in utero, but MAP can also be excreted in colostrum and milk. The objective of this study was to determine whether colostrum and milk fed to calves are important risk factors for infection with MAP. A questionnaire was sent to 1,050 farms participating in the Danish control program on paratuberculosis in early 2007. Details on practices regarding colostrum and milk feeding between 1999 and 2006 were obtained from 808 (77%) herds. Nine vaccinated herds were excluded. Information on MAP antibody-ELISA results, date of birth, and herd of birth of 93,994 animals was obtained from the Danish Cattle Database. A 2-level logistic regression model was fitted with a dichotomized ELISA response, with outcome, age, source of colostrum, and milk as fixed effects, and herd as a random effect. Animals fed colostrum from multiple cows had an odds ratio of 1.24 of being ELISA positive compared with animals fed colostrum from their own dam only. Calves suckling with foster cows had an odds ratio of 2.01 of being ELISA positive compared with calves fed milk replacer. Feeding bulk tank milk and pooled milk from cows with high somatic cell counts did not increase the risk of being ELISA positive. Overall, the results of the study suggested that source of milk was not of great importance for the transmission of MAP, but colostrum should be fed only from the dam of that calf.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Issue number12
Pages (from-to)4610-4615
Number of pages6
Publication statusPublished - 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • colostrum and milk
  • paratuberculosis
  • retrospective study
  • risk factor

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