In the world of show cattle, cold weather can be a blessing and a curse. Winter brings increased appetites and shaggy coats. But warts and ringworm seem to be some of Old Man Winter’s curse. (As if frozen water buckets weren’t enough.) It is discouraging to walk into the barn, two weeks away from a show, and find patches of hair missing from your calf. It is crucial to know how to combat these issues.

Warts (Bovine papillomavirus; BPV)

A virus that has six different strains causes warts. Warts are most commonly found on the neck and head of cattle. However, the location on the body depends on the strain present. Warts are species specific so, rest assured, you can’t get them. Since they are a virus, they can be transmitted by direct contact or by indirect contact. Brushes, halters, feed pans, hay racks, and pens themselves can all be infected.

Photo courtesy of Tri-State Livestock News.

Warts are usually white or tan and have a rough, flakey surface. Although they can be widespread, they usually have a mild effect on animal health. Younger cattle are most susceptible, especially yearlings. Unfortunately, this is the age of most youth cattle projects.

Since warts are a virus, there is no direct antibiotic treatment. You can vaccinate your cattle, but a different strain may appear. Warts typically appear two months after exposure and will clear up on their own after time. Warts should be surgically removed if they are large or near sensitive areas. You can also crush and remove warts. They will bleed, but not bad since they aren’t connected directly to the bloodstream. It is always recommended to keep open skin clean and free from debris. Using a simple iodine spray is effective in the prevention of infection. Check out this great article, “Warts in Cattle: Cause and Cure,” to learn more.


Ringworm (Trichophyton verrucosum)

Ringworm is one of the most common fungal infections in cattle. Despite its name, ringworm is not an actual worm. Ringworm causes dry, scaley, round patches all over the body. However, it is commonly found on the head and neck area. Although it is not eye appealing, there is no lasting effect of ringworm once it has cleared. Ringworm is spread through direct contact. It can also spread indirectly through contamination of feed pans, combs, and halters. Like warts, ringworm can heal on its own, but this takes a lengthy amount of time. Treatment for ringworm includes fungicides, as well as topical sulfur and iodine solutions.

Photo courtesy of Tri-State Livestock News.

Ringworm is zoonotic, meaning it can be transferred between species. It is important to wear personal protection when working with ringworm-infected animals. Wear gloves and long sleeves, and wash contaminated clothes immediately. Also, it is crucial to disinfect equipment to prevent the spread of ringworm.

Ringworm spreads quickly and even the slightest contact can lead to infection. The easiest way to prevent ringworm is to keep pens clean and equipment disinfected. Since winter is the worst time of the year for cleaning pens, ringworm often appears. After an animal has ringworm, it is important to disinfect the area before you put other cattle in the pen. For more information, we recommend the article “Ringworm in Cattle.”


Treatment Options

Shapley’s Original Mane-Tail-Groom (MTG) is a grooming product found in most feed stores. It is a natural-based product for skin disorders and infection. MTG works great for restoring the hair and clearing up infection. Rubbing it on the affected area daily results in quick healing and hair regrowth.

Many livestock product companies have developed shampoos used to help skin ailments. Weaver Medicated Shampoo is naturally antiseptic, antibacterial, and antiviral. When we begin our weekly shampoo routine in early spring, we usually use this shampoo on all show cattle for their first couple of baths.

  Sullivans Fungus Fighter is a natural anti-fungal spray that is used on the animal and in the pen. Using products such as these can aid in the healing and regrowth of skin and hair. There are other options of treatment, including freezing warts and topical fungicides. We have had good luck with WartsOff Ointment to treat the warts. We have a friend that recommends Tea Tree ADE Ointment to help with the ringworm. I also make sure to wear plastic gloves when applying ointments. Some treatments found online may work for some, but not for others. Like anything else, if you have doubts please contact your veterinarian.

When using contaminated combs, brushes, and equipment, disinfect them before further use. Keeping barns and pens clean and free from manure is always key to disease prevention. For more information, check out our post “Six Rules for Biosecurity….


We all dread winter, and surprises such as warts and ringworm make it worse. But we can beat the winter blues by knowing the signs and general treatment of skin ailments.


What hints do you have to treat warts and ringworm? Please comment below.

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