Many farmers have experienced financial losses when their cattle contract Pinkeye. The losses come in the form of poor weight gains, decreased milk production, increased labor costs from treating the infections and the treatment costs. Pinkeye is a highly contagious disease causing inflammation and if left untreated severe damage to the eyes, with the end result of total blindness. Moist conditions and lush forage can create optimal conditions for pinkeye, as wet weather typically increases the incidence of face flies that irritate eyes and help spread the disease. Additionally tall grass can irritate the eyes when cattle lower their heads to graze. Preventing pinkeye typically requires a multipronged approach, because not one single tactic will prevent the disease. The best way to stay ahead of it is by integrating prevention with broad-based treatment with the help of your veterinarian and nutritionist, as part of a herd health management plan. An effective plan can include pinkeye vaccination (4 -6 weeks prior to fly season), a comprehensive fly control plan (including feed-thru fly control products) and grazing/barn management program.
Even with preventative measures in place, you must know the clinical signs of pinkeye in order to start an aggressive treatment of affected animals. Pinkeye must be treated quickly in order to effectively control the spread of the disease. “Once pinkeye begins to spread through a herd, it’s very hard to contain and control,” notes Dr. Roger Winter, technical services veterinarian with AgriLabs. Also some farmers don’t realize that nutritional imbalances can influence the recovery, so it is essential to provide proper levels of protein, vitamins and minerals.
The most common way that pinkeye is spread is by the face flies which are attracted to cow’s eyes. One face fly can spread pinkeye to several animals in the same day. There is no single way to kill or control flies, since different species of flies have different habits. Fly control should include fly traps and sprays or dust, feed through fly control and/or natural fly predators. Protecting the herd before an outbreak occurs and reducing the fly populations go a long way in reducing the risks. At the first signs of: tears and excessive blinking as well as redness you should take measures to treat the animal. Also look for reduced feed intakes because pain may cause cattle to eat less. If the disease has advanced to the point that the eye is cloudy, red, or covered with a pus-like substance called fibrin then your veterinarian should be contacted immediately to discuss treatment options.
Remember to wash your hands and change gloves between treating infected animals, so to avoid further spreading the disease. Scarring of the eye may last a lifetime, but early treatment will be critical to saving the eyesight as well as minimizing the spread of the disease. Get started now on a strategy to prevent and control the spread of pinkeye in your cattle, so that you will save time and money as well as have healthier cattle.
By: Susan Snider, Snider’s Elevator Inc. (References: Feedstuffs July 20, 2015 Nutrition & Health: Beef Research article by Tim Lundeen and Industry Insider by Krissa Welshans) For solutions and more info contact Snider’s Elevator Inc.