AgEBB-MU CAFNR Extension

David Burton
Civic Communications Specialist
2400 S. Scenic Ave.
Springfield, MO 65807

July 2, 2010

The Eyes Have It:
Cattle Producers Battling Eye Irritations in Herds this Summer

Most Missouri cattle producers are doing battle this summer with eye irritations in their herds according to Eldon Cole, a livestock specialist with University of Missouri Extension. The source of the irritations likely is the pinkeye bacteria, Moraxella bovis.

Pinkeye results in lost weight, reduction of gains and reduced value as feeder cattle or breeding stock.

"I've visited with cattle owners, and veterinarians in the area and the eye problems are widespread and they started earlier in 2010 than usual," said Cole.

Although Moraxella bovis is the suspected culprit, there are other diseases and strains that can produce symptoms similar to M. bovis pinkeye. Nutrition, flies, dust, grass seeds and bright sunlight may be contributing factors.

Close animal-to-animal contact and face flies typically are blamed for the spread within a herd.

"Many owners are perplexed as they have a closed herd with no cattle just across the fence that could have brought the disease to their cattle, yet they have bad eyes. In fact they often say it's been years since they had eye problems like this year," said Cole.

Cole has visited with area producers and vets and has found a lengthy list of treatments and prevention strategies.

Treatment strategies start with frequent observation and prompt treatment of animals that show squinting and tearing of the eyes. Antibiotic treatment products were varied and might be given intramuscular, in the eyelid, directly applied to the eye as an ointment or given under the skin.

Following the antibiotic treatment most either put a patch over the affected eye or suture it shut. It is recommended to isolate the animals from the unaffected cattle in the herd. It also helps to have those cattle handy for follow-up treatments.

Recovery is slow and may take from two to three weeks.

Besides the antibiotic treatment, some will wash the eye out, administer vitamin A, put a fly tag in their ear or pour the cow with an insecticide.

"Some producers say feeding antibiotics in the concentrate or mineral helps, but that isn't always the report I hear," said Cole.

The same applies to the use of pinkeye vaccines. It appears the vaccine, if it contains the organism involved, will speed recovery if it doesn't eliminate the onset of pinkeye.

"Research does show less pinkeye in some cattle that are under the same environment as others. This lends hope that selection for more tolerance to the problems will occur in the future," said Cole. "Either way, visit with local veterinarians to see what protocol is working against pinkeye in your area. There is not a simple solution."

Source: Eldon Cole, (417) 466-3102

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