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A Guide to Common Livestock and Cattle Diseases and How to Prevent Them

A Guide to Common Livestock and Cattle Diseases and How to Prevent Them

As a livestock caretaker, it's crucial to have a keen eye for identifying symptoms of illness in your animals. Our Hohenwald vets put together a guide on illnesses that afflict livestock and how to recognize them. Being equipped with this knowledge will ensure that you can provide prompt and effective treatment.

Know the Symptoms and What to Do

Livestock and cattle play a crucial role in the livelihoods of farmers and ranchers as these animals are considered as valuable assets. With their ability to produce meat, milk, and other vital food items, they are essential to sustaining our food supply.

However, just like us humans, they too can fall prey to various illnesses. Therefore, livestock owners must stay informed about the prevalent diseases affecting their cattle and how to identify the symptoms.

By being proactive, you can take necessary steps to prevent the spread of diseases and provide prompt treatment, ensuring the health and well-being of your valuable assets.

Bovine Respiratory Disease (BRD) & Tuberculosis (TB)

Brucellosis and tuberculosis are highly contagious diseases that primarily affect cattle and can easily spread from one animal to another through infected bodily fluids. 

These illnesses pose a significant threat to human health as consuming raw, unpasteurized milk from infected cattle can result in the transmission of the disease. To minimize the risk of brucellosis and tuberculosis in your herd, it's important to source cattle from reputable breeders, avoid sharing calving equipment, and isolate any animals that are pregnant or showing symptoms of the disease.

By taking these precautions, you can protect your herd and ensure a safe food supply for yourself and others.

Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD)

Foot and Mouth Disease, a highly contagious illness among livestock, wreaks havoc on the health of infected animals. Characterized by painful lesions resembling blisters on the tongue, nose, mouth, and toes, this disease can cause high fevers, weakened legs, and even mobility issues.

While it may not prove fatal, it certainly leads to significant discomfort for the affected animals.

Anaemia – Theileria

Anaemia in livestock is often caused by the pesky bush ticks that attach themselves to the animals. These ticks are commonly found in areas like the ears, around the tail, and on the underside of the animal and are particularly harmful to cattle, transmitting a disease known as theileriosis. This disease is most commonly seen in young calves between 8-12 weeks of age, but can affect cattle of all ages.

The symptoms of this disease resemble those of human anaemia, including:

  • Lethargy
  • Lack of appetite,
  • Difficulty exercising
  • Have pale or yellow gums
  • Risk aborting if pregnant

A blood sample is required to determine whether an animal is affected by Theileria. A blood transfusion is often performed for valuable livestock to treat the disease and improve the animal's health. 

In addition, reducing the tick population in the area where the livestock live and graze is essential in protecting the animals. Utilizing pesticides such as acaricides can help reduce the number of ticks in the area and protect livestock from bush ticks.

Bracken Poisoning

In fall, bracken poisoning is most likely to occur due to the lack of growth in grass. This toxic plant poses a significant threat to grazing animals, as ingestion of large amounts can lead to cancerous effects and almost always result in fatal outcomes.

The disease develops as a result of the plant's toxins causing depression in bone marrow and inhibiting the production of white blood cells.

Symptoms such as:

  • Depression
  • Loss of appetite
  • Bloody diarrhea
  • High fever
  • Weakening, collapse, and death,

These symptoms can appear as soon as five days post-exposure. To mitigate the risk of bracken poisoning, it is recommended to implement preventative measures such as using herbicides and burning pastures

Heat Stress & Dehydration

As temperatures rise during the summer months, livestock ofent suffer from dehydration and heat stress. 

To identify these issues, keep an eyes out for telltale signs such as:

  • Sunken eyes
  • Skin tenting (after pinching the skin)
  • Yellow or dark urine
  • Fever 

To properly treat dehydration, it's crucial to rehydrate the animal with a combination of water and electrolytes. A typical cow needs anywhere from 3 to 30 gallons of water per day to stay hydrated, with safe water intake being around 5 to 10 gallons per drink.

Heat stress is indicated by a rectal temperature exceeding 102.5°F. To provide multiple sources of water to reduce competition, make shade available for the animals to escape the sun, and implement cooling measures such as spraying down the animals or setting up sprinklers when temperatures exceed 80°F.

Protections & Preventions 

Vaccinations play a crucial role in safeguarding livestock from a variety of diseases, including black leg, malignant edema, red water, enterotoxaemia, black disease, and leptospirosis. By receiving routine vaccinations, animals can be protected against these harmful illnesses, ensuring their health and well-being.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding livestock. For an accurate diagnosis of your livestock condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

If you have any questions or concerns about your livestock or cattle. Please contact our Hohenwald vets for more information.

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