Perfect conditions for pink eye, Southern farmers warned

Beef Central, 19/02/2016

With hot weather conditions being experienced across Victoria, cattle producers are being advised to be on the lookout for pink eye.

Summer brings increased sunlight and dust, and for some properties with low stocking rates this means plenty of high grass all of which can cause irritation to the surface of the eye making them more vulnerable to pink eye.

Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources (DEDJTR) District Veterinary Officer Jeff Cave said pink eye, or infectious keratoconjunctivitis, is a highly contagious, painful and debilitating disease that can severely affect animal productivity.

“Pink eye usually occurs in young cattle in their first summer, but after this initial infection, cattle develop immunity to the disease but may remain carriers of the bacteria, Moraxella bovis, which can lead to future outbreaks in following years,” Dr Cave said.

“The clinical signs of pink eye include clear and watery tears, signs of irritation, an aversion to sunlight, reddening and swelling of the eyelids and cloudiness of the eye.

“In a small percentage of cases, an affected eye may form an abscess and rupture, leading to permanent blindness.

“While most affected eyes completely recover after three to five weeks, a number may be left with scarring on the surface.”

Pink eye can be treated with sprays, ointments, injections and patches or a combination of these treatments.

Dr Cave said extra care should be taken when mustering cattle for the purposes of treatment for pink eye, as factors such as dust and flies may enhance the spread of the disease.

“Caution should also be taken not to confuse pink eye with other conditions of the eye, such as a grass seed in the eye, eye cancer and other eye infections.”

He said an outbreak of pinkeye can be prevented through vaccination three to six weeks before the onset of the pink eye season.

“Other control measures include controlling fly numbers to limit the spread of bacteria from animal to animal: prompt segregation and treatment of pink eye in affected stock; and avoiding unnecessary yarding of cattle during periods where the risk of outbreak is high.”

Source: Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources. People wanting further advice are urged to contact their local veterinarian or DEDJTR Veterinary or Animal Health Officer, or in NSW your Local Land Services.



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  1. Frank Bell, 21/02/2016

    We had 158 infected cattle 7 years ago and had to treat everything at least twice. We used the injectable stuff as well as the usual time honoured treatment and cut it back considerably but not altogether. Since then we have used a pouron called easydose 2 or 3 times each summer with great results…….maybe 3-4 infected cattle annually. Too expensive but worth it ! We now have have a watering system for the whole yard, to keep the dust down

  2. Wendy Bowman, 20/02/2016

    Be aware that some fly control treatments will kill dung beetles.

    Partly correct, Wendy. It is not the beetles themselves that may be affected in some treatments, it is the larval stage of the life-cycle. But its a complex issue, easily misunderstood. All manufacturers of buffalo fly control products address the dung beetle issue with helpful information on their websites, and in product information, allowing producers to make more informed decisions. Editor.

  3. charles nason, 19/02/2016

    One left field explanation is that pink eye is really the result of a dry period and thus no green feed which supplies water soluble vitamins . This results in a compromised immune system which leaves the young animal vulnerable to infection from irritating flies and dust . Thus the real cause is the lack of green feed not the flies and dust . Treating the symptom is not the answer
    Solution? an injection of vitamins? Practical in an extensive beef operation?
    Probably not!

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