Preventing pinkeye takes several steps
Wow, did we ever get precipitation the last few days. It is good we got the seven plus inches of rain spread out over nearly a week, but the creeks and dugouts are still over flowing. The warm weather next week should really make the grass pop. As long as we don’t get a hard frost, the first hay cutting should be great. As we prepare for pasture turnout, we must plan our pinkeye control.
The old form of pinkeye in cattle was caused by a combination of problems resulting in a final infection with a bacteria, Moraxcella bovis. This strain of Moraxcella was sensitive to tetracyclines and the long acting injectables provided easy treatment. Many of you probably mixed CTC into pasture mineral while others added water soluble CTC to dust bags. The new Veterinary Feed Directive will no longer allow these usages.
Any irritation to the eye which causes injury or increased drainage from the eye allows a path for the bacteria to enter. Many years ago we considered pinkeye a disease of white faced cattle. The bright sunlight reflected off the skin of the white face to cause irritation. When the pasture grasses are heading out, the pollen is usually about eye high for the calf. In small pastures many producers clip the seed heads from the grass. Many of you routinely inject calves with a vitamin A & D combination. This leads to better ocular health. The flies move to the ocular discharge on the calf’s face. As they travel from one calf to another, they carry the organisms causing infection. You start with a calf or two with pinkeye, but soon you have a herd outbreak.
Vaccination has been used to attempt to minimize the disease. About thirty years ago the first pinkeye vaccines arrived in the market place. They were only for Moraxcella bovis and had limited success. In the last ten to fifteen years we have isolated other Moraxcella species. First we called it Moraxcella ovis, but now it is called Moraxcella bovoculi. None of the commercial vaccines contain this organism. We call this syndrome “winter pinkeye.” The problem usually erupted late in the pasture season and carried into the feedlot sometimes lasting all winter. In our herds we routinely culture both Moraxcella bovis and bovoculi. We have formulated ranch specific autogenous bacterins from the organisms we have cultured in our area. We recommend a vaccination at turnout and a booster preweaning in the late summer. This helps assure better immunity during the feedlot phase.
Pinkeye control hinges on several important management practices:
- oTimely use of appropriate vaccines
- Good vitamin and mineral programs
- Minimize irritation
- Shade in pasture areas
- Minimize pollen
- Fly control
- Insecticide ear tags
- Pour Ons
- Dust bags
- Long Range
An injectable dewormer which is released slowly during the grazing season to help minimize internal parasites. Serendipitously the product also appears to minimize fly population although no label claims are made.
Pinkeye is a common pasture disease in cows and calves. It causes decreased weight gains and market losses. It has been suggested that pinkeye causes great pain for the calf and needs to be prevented and treated. Consult with your veterinarian, nutritionalist, or extension specialist to develop a program for you ranch. It will help eliminate costly pinkeye losses in your herd.
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Outtagrass Cattle Co. cartoon by Jan Swan Wood for the July 24, 2021, edition of Tri-State Livestock News