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Preventing Pinkeye in Cattle

Prevent pinkeye in cattle with a great Fly Control Program.

As summer approaches and the temperature rises, it’s time to start protecting your cattle from flies and disease. Pinkeye in cattle is a highly contagious disease which can affect your herd and bottom line if left untreated.

What Causes Pinkeye in Cattle?

Pinkeye, also known as Infectious Bovine Keratoconjunctivitis, is a contagious ocular disease that affects up to 10 million cattle each year, with calves being the most susceptible to the disease.

Common house fly macro isolated on white background

The leading cause of Pinkeye (in most cases) is Moraxella bovis, a gram-negative coccobacillus bacteria. Flies are the main vector of transmission for the disease amongst cattle. Watery secretions from the eye serve as a source of food for the fly, thus making cattle a prime target for feeding during the summer months. The disease can stay on flies for up to four days, making the odds of a pinkeye outbreak much higher.

Symptoms of pinkeye range from mild to severe depending on the length of time the infection goes untreated. Symptoms occur within two days of infection and progress in four different stages. If left untreated for too long, the animal could suffer from vision loss. Symptoms include watery eye, redness on or around the eye, a “white spot” or bump on the cornea of the eye.

Preventing Pinkeye in Cattle

While there is no 100% foolproof method for preventing pinkeye in your herd, limiting the chances of infection will make you (and your cattle) happier. A solid prevention program should include a vaccination program, fly control, and pasture management.

Vaccinations — Check with your herd-health veterinarian before vaccinating for a better idea of your herd’s needs, including the time vaccinations should be administered and which vaccine will work best. Keep in mind that a booster dose is often (but not always) required to boost the efficacy of the vaccine.

Fly Control — As a harbinger of disease, keeping flies at bay is crucial. Thankfully, there are many methods for limiting the number of flies on your property. Using products such as back rubs, dust bags, fly tags, pour-ons, or sprays can curb the number of flies on your property and cattle. If using fly tags as a primary source of control, keep in mind they should be applied roughly 60 days before the perceived onset of summer. If you choose to vaccinate your cattle, timing the follow-up booster with ear tagging can save time and effort! Another effort saver is the VetGun which allows you to apply fly control from a short distance, as opposed to rounding up a herd through a chute!

Pasture Maintenance — It’s time to pull out the mower! Keeping mature grasses, weeds, and their seeds cut down reduces the chance of eye irritation, and secretion. (As mentioned earlier in this post, the secretions emitted from the eye are a feeding ground for flies).

“An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure”

While Benjamin Franklin’s quote refers to fire safety, it’s just as true when it comes to herd health. The economical benefits of preventing pinkeye far outweigh the costs incurred when treating. Treating Pinkeye can cost up to $100 per head. Additionally, it can reduce weaning weights in calves by as much as 60 pounds. As the medical issues (and fees) add up, you’ll notice the impact on your bottom line. With fewer pounds to sell and less money per pound, you’ll want to do everything you can to eliminate outbreaks. While prevention may seem costly, much of the cost can be attributed to good husbandry practices.

Read more about the VetGun system here.