Preventing pinkeye in cattle

Staff Writer
Brownwood Bulletin
Scott Anderson

In the hustle and bustle of the long and busy days of summer, one thing that can sneak up on a rancher is pinkeye in cows and calves. Although pinkeye is a common infection that isn’t unfamiliar to ranchers, a refresher course is never a bad idea.

Here are four things to consider when evaluating, treating and preventing pinkeye in your cow herd this summer.

1. What is pinkeye and how does it spread?

Pinkeye is an infectious eye disease that is found in nearly all breeds of cattle throughout the world.

Summer and early fall are the peak seasons for pinkeye, although it has been reported in all seasons. This is the time when implicated bacteria can be recovered from cattle eyes at the highest rates. It also is the time when environmental factors that influence the development of pinkeye are at their peak.

Calves are much more susceptible to pinkeye than older cows or bulls, and animals that have been infected once are not likely to develop the disease again for more than a year,” he says.

Environmental factors such as UV light, wind, dust, tall pasture grasses and weeds will lead to a higher rate of disease within a herd.

Face flies are a very important factor in the spread of the disease within a herd. Flies pick up and spread the organism on their legs while feeding on the area around the eyes. The interaction of risk factors such as higher daily environmental temperatures and fly pressure tend to make cattle congregate into tighter spaces, allowing for easier transmission of offending organisms.

The presence of other organisms in the conjunctiva, the pink inside lining of the eyelid and covering on the eyeball, may increase the severity of the disease.”

2. What are the clinical signs of pinkeye?

Excessive weeping of the affected eye and closure due to pain are the two signs most commonly observed.

As the disease progresses, the cornea becomes cloudy or white. An ulcer frequently develops near the center of the cornea. Cattle with pinkeye keep the affected eye or eyes closed because of pain and to avoid bright sunlight. The course of the infection may run for several weeks.

3. How do I treat pinkeye?

Early treatment of cattle with pinkeye is important, not only for a successful outcome of the individual animal affected, but also to stop the shedding of the bacteria to decrease the risk of transmission to other cattle.

In Stage 1, long-acting tetracyclines (Biomycin 200®, LA200®, or their generic equivalents) are effective at this stage of infection. A second injection given 48 to 72 hours later may increase the percentage of cattle that respond to treatment.

Sprays and ointments are only effective if used three to four times daily, which generally is not feasible for most producers. Also, many of the commercially available ointments are either illegal to use in cattle or have very long withdrawal times.

Give all SQ injections in the neck or in front of the shoulder. If treating several animals, you may want to wash your hands or change gloves between animals so you do not further spread this bacteria. Never use any powder or spray containing nitrofuracin, as its use in cattle has been illegal since May 2002. A veterinarian should be consulted before using any other medications.

4. How can I prevent pinkeye?

The role of the bacteria should not be entirely discounted, however. Pinkeye tends to affect multiple cattle in a herd. When the bacteria is successful at infecting an animal, there’s more of it around to spread to another by flies or direct contact. Exposure to higher bacterial numbers means less of an irritation is needed for an infection to start.

It’s easier said than done but controlling the environmental aspects of pinkeye through fly control shade and clipping tall grass should be considered. While the success of pinkeye vaccines is erratic, they should also be discussed with your veterinarian. Just because the environmental aspects of pinkeye may be hard to control, producers should still do what they can to protect cattle from this painful, production-robbing disease.

If a calf is experiencing pinkeye, they are not eating, so there is actually a zero or negative rate of gain. So, those animals, even after you get them over pinkeye, are going to be at a lighter weight and not bring in as much money.

There are a wide variety of antibiotics available for treatment. Consulting with your veterinarian needs to be the first step in pinkeye management.

There are several antibiotics that have been used effectively for many years, but if Mycoplasma is part of the problem, a stronger medication may be needed.

And don’t assume readily available vaccines are one-size-fits-all.

Commercial vaccines are very good vaccines and are produced to deal with the common problems that most producers will face, but custom-made vaccines come in to fill the gap where commercial vaccines don’t cover the particular pathogens that are causing disease on your farm.

Using custom-made vaccines may seem costly initially, but production and profitability will suffer more with recurring herd infections.

The take-home message: Pinkeye causes money to come out of the producer’s pocket.

Update: seends in China

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) urges anyone who receives an unsolicited package of seeds to mail those seeds to the location listed below for your state. If more than one location is listed for your state, please select the location closest to your residence.

Instructions for Mailing Seed Packets:

• Place the unopened seed packet and any packaging, including the mailing label, in a mailing envelope. If the seed packets are open, first place the seeds and their packaging into a zip-lock bag, seal it, and then place everything into a mailing envelope.

• Include your name, address, and phone number so that a State or Federal agriculture official can contact you for additional information, if needed.

• In some cases, you may also submit your information online. Instructions are provided below if that is an option in your state.

If you are unable to mail the package to one of the locations below, please contact your APHIS State plant health director to arrange a no-contact pick up or to determine a convenient drop-off location.

Choose the closest location:

USDA-APHIS-PPQ Attn: Elias Gonzalez 100 Los Indios Blvd.

Los Indios, Texas 78567

USDA-APHIS-PPQ Attn: Gerardo Gonzalez 120 San Francisco, Bridge II Complex Building 5, Room 505 Laredo, Texas 78045

USDA-APHIS-PPQ Houston PIS Attn: Alejandro Gammon Officer in Charge 19581 Lee Road Humble, TX, 77338

USDA-APHIS-PPQ Dallas Ft Worth Work Unit 75261 Attn: Janet Ussery, Officer in Charge P.O. Box 610063. Dallas, Texas 75261

USDA APHIS PPQ Attn: Harald Grieb

3600 E. Paisano Dr. Room 147-1 El Paso, TX 79905