Curtailing disease is important for overall herd health

Stopping diseases and viruses from wreaking havoc on a herd can save money, time and frustration. Though some factors are out of a farmers’ control, there are practices producers can implement to keep diseases and viruses at bay.

Take a close look

When producers pour feed in a trough or place hay in a pasture, a simple glance over the animals or counting of the herd is not sufficient. 

In order to adequately check the health of a herd, producers need to take a close look at their animals. “They should be close enough to see whether the cattle have clear eyes and noses,” Heidi Ward, DVM, Ph.D., veterinarian and assistant professor associated with the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service, said. “The more dangerous and contagious viruses in cattle, usually affect the respiratory or digestive systems, such as Bovine Viral Diarrhea Virus, Parainfluenza Virus-2, Bovine Respiratory Syncytial Virus and Bovine Herpesvirus-1.”

Separate then treat sick cattle last. Veterinarians advise farmers conduct this up-close evaluation of their cattle on a regular basis. If an animal is sick, it should be separated from the rest of the herd and placed in a separate pen for treatment. “Biosecurity measures should then be honored to keep the virus from spreading to other cattle,” Ward explained. “One way to do this, is to remember to always attend to healthy cattle first and the sick cattle last.”

Types of Diseases

Some diseases, such as Blackleg or Leptospirosis, are bacterial diseases found in the environment. These types of diseases are not typically spread from animal to animal. 

Tick-borne diseases, such as Anaplasmosis, spread through bites from insects or from injecting cattle with needles shared between animals. Other types of diseases include sexually transmitted protozoal diseases such as Trichomoniasis.

Prevention through vaccination and supplements

Many diseases and viruses can be controlled through vaccination or testing. “I would suggest consultation with a veterinarian to develop the proper vaccination program for their cattle operation,” Patrick Davis, Ph.D., University of Missouri Regional Livestock Specialist, said. “Also, cattle producers need to work with their veterinarian to incorporate antibiotics in the diet at the proper time, depending on the cattle that they are feeding, to help with sickness.”

If cattle producers are supplementing cattle, experts suggest an inexpensive option is to incorporate either Rumensin or Bovatec in the diet at 200 mg/hd/day, depending on what is being fed. Rumensin or Bovatec can help with rumen health and the control of Coccidiosis. Coccidiosis can cause significant economic losses in a cattle herd due to reduced performance, death from direct infections and by predisposing cattle to secondary bacterial and viral infections.

Consult a veterinarian and create a herd health plan

Producers should discuss their concerns with their veterinarian in order to create a herd health plan. “In this plan cattle producers should work with their veterinarian to identify virus and illness issues that could be detrimental to their cattle operation and take steps to prevent these issues on their cattle operation,” Davis said. A proper diet along with access to minerals, trace minerals and vitamins are other ways to prevent or reduce virus, disease and sickness in a herd. 


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here