Dale Watson
Commercial Agriculture Beef and Livestock Specialist
University of Missouri Extension




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Please send your comments and sund suggestions to Dale Watson, Commercial Agriculture Beef and Livestock Specialist, University of Missouri Extension, 111 N. Mason, Carrollton, MO 64633, call 660-542-1792, or send messages by e-mail to: watsond@missouri.edu.
For the Week of
June 1, 2000

Pinkeye Still a Major Problem

Many producers are experiencing eye problems, commonly referred to as pinkeye, with all ages of cattle this summer. The old bacterium Moraxella bovis is the culprit to blame for this malady. Pinkeye is a worldwide problem and there are many factors that influence the initial phase of pinkeye within a herd of cattle.

The first sign of this problem is watering of the eyes, which is frequently referred to as tearing. These tear streaks from the inner corner of the eye are usually very evident. Frequently these tears keep the eyelid from closing completely. Time is a very important issue as you plan to treat these eyes. It is not uncommon to find lesions or ulcers on the surface of the eye within 24 hours after the tearing is first observed.

Within a few days the eyes will turn blue, then white. In severe cases the eye will become cone shaped, enlarge and then rupture. Animals infected in both eyes usually become blind. After the first observation of an infected individual within the herd it is not uncommon for other animals to become infected within a few days. Face flies are a major contributor to the rapid spread of this problem within the herd.

Pinkeye does occur any time of the year. However, it is most prevalent during the peak season of ultraviolet light exposure. There are a number of predisposing factors that contribute to the pinkeye.

Younger animals, especially calves followed by yearling individuals, tend to experience a higher degree of incidence compared to cows. This indicates that acquired immunity occurs over time as the age of individuals increase. IBR (Infectious Bovine Tracheitis) is capable of damaging the protective cells covering the eye. Cells on the eyelid as well as the cornea can be damaged by IBR. Trauma caused by physical irritation such as blowing dust, sand, weed seeds, or tail switching that causes scratching of the cornea provide the opportunity for entry of the Moraxella bovis organism.

Indirectly many factors are involved that tend to interfere with the immune system and its response to pinkeye. Pastures and hay may appear to be nutritionally adequate but may be deficient in some minerals and vitamins, or these nutrients may be tied up and unable to be utilized through the digestive system. On occasions a small amount of supplementation such as corn or other forms of supplement may drastically improve the immune response system and reduce the number of individuals with eye problems.

Minimizing predisposing factors can be very helpful in reducing the incidences of pinkeye. Keep in mind pinkeye is a contagious disease. Fly control programs go a long way in reducing this malady. Providing a small amount of supplement is often helpful in reducing pinkeye problems. Vaccination for M. bovis has shown to be effective in some cases. Providing an immune response from immunizations including IBR, BVD, along with 7-8 way vaccination program will assist with reducing pinkeye problems. The use of eye patches, eye sutures, and the injection of antibiotics under the eyelid are all being utilized in the treatment of pinkeye.

It is not fun to restrain cattle on multiple occasions. It is best to utilize one treatment if possible. Many herd managers have a technique that works for them and often includes a definite treatment procedure. If you have a method that is working, don’t change. Just stick with this procedure and you will reduce your losses when marketing time arrives this fall.

University of Missouri ExtensionDale's Country Trails - June 1, 2000
http://outreach.missouri.edu/agconnection/DCT/CT060100.html -- Revised: April 20, 2004