Bovine Infectious Diseases
One of the most discouraging problems in cow-calf operations is abortions. The cow or heifer got bred, conceived and is carrying the calf and BANG! You’ve got nothing! At least if the calf was born and developed scours or pneumonia you would have a chance to treat and save the calf. But with an abortion, you’ve lost a year’s production with that cow.
What causes abortions? For the most part abortions are caused by infectious agents–viruses, bacteria, and protozoa. In California, selenium deficiency is also a common cause of late term abortions. The common bugs are Bovine Virus Diarrhea virus (BVD), Infectious Bovine Rhinotracheitis virus (IBR, rednose), Foothill Abortion, Leptospirosis, and Neospora. One bug we can’t forget is Brucella abortus (Brucellosis).
How many abortions are too many? It is common in nature to have 1% abortions in a herd of cattle and these commonly occur just before the anticipated calving season or early in the calving season. When the number exceeds this level it is time to act.
What if I have too many abortions? The first abortion that occurs is usually not a cause for concern; but if a second one occurs don’t hesitate to call your veterinarian. The California state diagnostic laboratory (California Animal Health & Food Safety [CAHFS] laboratory system) does an excellent job of finding out the cause of abortions at a very reasonable price. Your veterinarian will submit
samples (often the entire fetus) to the lab. If there is a delay in getting the fetus to the lab–refrigerate it, do not freeze it. When you get a diagnosis back you and your veterinarian will know what steps to take or what to fine-tune in your current prevention program.
What should I be doing to prevent abortions? There are a number of things that must be done to prevent each type of abortion and these are briefly listed below. The main thing to do is to consult with your veterinarian well ahead of time to be sure you are doing all those things that are critical to your operation.
Viral Abortions–BVD and IBR
These are viruses that can be spread on equipment and clothing, as well as by contact with infected animals. Be sure to vaccinate all replacement heifers with a modified live virus vaccine (usually a 4-way IBR, PI3, BVD, BRSV vaccine) at some point prior to breeding. Afterwards, give yearly boosters with the killed virus vaccines (any time before the third trimester of pregnancy [before they are 6 months pregnant]) or use the modified live vaccines when they are open, just
before turning in the bulls. Most MLV vaccines are not approved for use in pregnant cattle. If you have any questions regarding virus vaccines, contact your veterinarian.
This is a group of bacteria transmitted via the urine of infected animals contaminating feed and water. It can be spread by many species of animals, such as dogs, rats, and wildlife. Infection usually causes late term abortions (6-9 months). Most veterinarians recommend annual or twice-annual vaccinations with multivalent vaccines, such as 5-way (L. pomona, L. hardjo, L. grippotyphosa,
L. canicola, L. icterohemorrhagia) or GHP (3-way) can usually prevent abortions. It is best to vaccinate when turning the bulls in or before the cows are 5 months pregnant.
This disease is almost eradicated from cattle in the U.S. Almost, but not quite! Veterinarians and your state animal health officials highly recommend you continue to vaccinate all your replacement heifers against Brucellosis (Bang’s vaccination) at or near weaning.
This is a bacterial disease that is carried by the Parajuello tick and causes late term abortions. This disease costs California cattle producers an estimated 13-18 million dollars annually. There has been great progress made by UC researchers in the past few years; however, there is no vaccine currently available. When susceptible cattle are bitten by the tick during the first to seventh month of
pregnancy they can abort in 90 to 120 days. The best prevention is to expose cows and heifers to the tick inhabited areas when they are open or greater than 7 months pregnant and to keep them away from these areas when they are bred from 1-7 months. Contact your veterinarian or livestock advisor if you are unsure where the ticks might be on your ranch. Also, if you anticipate bringing pregnant
cattle (1-7 months pregnant) into a high risk Foothill Abortion area contact your veterinarian ahead of time.
A protozoon carried by dogs and transmitted to cows through the feces, then transferred on to fetus through the placenta. Also, the agent can be transmitted from the cow to the calf. Usually causes abortions at 4-6 months of pregnancy. This is a very common cause of abortion in dairy cattle, much less common in beef cattle. Restrict access of dogs (potential carriers) to stored feed and feeding areas. If the disease is diagnosed in an aborted calf and its dam is found to be
seropositive for the disease, considering culling the cow and any female offspring. Also, testing of the cows in the herd can be used in a test and cull program to help eliminate the agent from a closed herd. Consult with your veterinarian about the various options if this disease is a problem in your herd.
This trace mineral deficiency causes white muscle disease, weight loss, diarrhea, infertility, retained placenta and decreased immune function. When selenium deficiency causes abortions it is usually in the last trimester. The fetus develops white muscle disease before it is born and dies–thus the abortion. Prevention is best accomplished by use of the new selenium boluses that last for one year or feeding of a loose salt mineral mix containing 120 parts per million at one ounce per head per day. Consult your veterinarian if you are unsure if your herd is selenium deficient. He or she can do blood tests to determine the selenium
status of your herd.
John Maas, DVM, MS
UCD VET VIEWS
CALIFORNIA CATTLEMAN, SEPTEMBER 2001
More Information about Causes of Abortion
Bovine Trichomonosis: Essential Facts and Testing
What is bovine trichomonosis?
Bovine trichomonosis (a.k.a. trichomoniasis) is an important cause of economic loss in cattle operations that use natural service. Surveys in California beef cattle operations have shown that more than 15 percent of herds had at least one infected bull.
This disease is caused by a protozoan organism called Tritrichomonas foetus. This organism lives in the folds of the bull’s penis and internal sheath. In cows this organism colonizes the vagina, cervix, uterus and oviducts.
How does it get transmitted?
Trichomonosis is a venereal disease of cattle. It is transmitted from cow to cow by a bull or, in rare cases, by contaminated semen or insemination equipment or nonhygienic artificial insemination (AI) procedures.
How does it affect cattle?
The most common signs in an infected herd are:
• Early abortion (too early to find an aborted fetus).
• Repeated breeding resulting in long breeding seasons.
• A wide range of gestational ages at pregnancy check.
• Pyometra (pus-filled uterus) in about five percent of cows.
• In first-time infected herds, it is common to end with a 50 to 70 percent calf crop strung out over three to eight months.
• Bulls show no clinical signs.
• Cows can commonly clear the infection within a few months, however, infection in bulls over 4 years of age is usually permanent and is the main source of transmission from one breeding season to another.
How can you test your herd for infection?
Testing for Tritrichomonas foetus is usually done on breeding bulls by performing a scraping of the penis and prepuce in order to obtain a preputial (internal sheath) fluid sample, and inoculating the sample into special culture media. If one bull is found positive, you should assume that the whole herd is exposed.
Studies of positive bulls have shown that this culture method will miss about 10 to 20 percent of infected bulls if the test is performed only once. So, if no infected bull is found on the basis of one culture of all the bulls in the herd, then we can be 80 to 90 percent sure that the herd is “clean.”
How can you treat infected herds?
The disease is self-limiting in cows, as opposed to bulls, that will be permanently infected. After several heat cycles, most cows and heifers clear the infection, but this may take months.
There is a vaccine available for Tritrichomonas foetus (Trichguard or Trichguard Plus [Ft. Dodge]). The vaccine helps cows/heifers to clear the infection in a matter of weeks (vs. months in unvaccinated cows). In most cases, it does not prevent infection.
No vaccine efficacy has been shown in bulls.
There is no approved treatment for infected bulls.
How can you prevent the disease in your herd?
• Use young, fertile bulls or artificial insemination (AI).
• Culture new bulls at breeding soundness exam time.
• Keep a closed herd and test any animal that you buy.
How can you control the disease in your herd?
If one of your bulls is positive for trichomonosis, it is recommended to cull all bulls and vaccinate all females twice, one month apart. The best option to control trichomonosis is to use artificial insemination. If you want to keep your bulls, you can vaccinate all females annually, but it would be better to cull all bulls and open cows before next season.
An alternative, if you don’t want to cull all bulls, is to sample them at least three times at weekly intervals. With three negative tests, we will be 99 percent confident that a bull is negative. Given the sensitivity of the culture diagnostic test, the table below will give you an idea of the confidence you should have in a “negative” bull, depending on how many times he is tested.
How sure can you be that your bulls are clean after a negative test result? The new “real-time” qPCR test is 99% sensitive, meaning that only one test is necessary to be certain a bull is clean.
Regulations regarding Trichomoniasis: (Effective October 5, 2007)
1. Positive Trichomonosis cases must be reported to CDFA within two days of diagnosis.
2. All Trichomonosis tests are official tests; animals require official identification and samples must be evaluated in approved laboratories.
3. Confirmation of positive test results by PCR may be requested – but is not required.
4. CDFA will investigate cases, notify owners of potentially exposed cattle, and quarantine bulls in affected and exposed herds.
5. Bulls from affected herds require three negative tests at least seven but not more than 28 days apart, to move anywhere except slaughter.
6. Bulls from exposed herds require one negative test before movement.
7. Bulls 18 months of age and older sold at public saleyards in California require a negative Trichomonosis test within 60 days before sale or be consigned as slaughter only.
8. Public auction yards must post a notice in a prominent place stating, “All bulls 18 months of age and older must have a negative trichomonosis test or be consigned as slaughter only.”
9. Bulls18 months of age and older entering California require a negative test within 60 days unless entering for slaughter, semen collection or exhibition (not commingling with other cattle).
10. Pasture-to-pasture bulls require a negative test within 12 months.
John Maas, DVM, MS
Copper deficiency, retained placenta,
Non-infectious Disorders in Cattle
- Copper Deficiency is one of the most common mineral deficiencies encountered by ranchers in the Central Coast region.It is also one of the least recognized and most economically devastating disorders in our area.The clinical signs of copper disease can range from sub-clinical (unapparent signs) to sudden death.
- Copper is used by the body for almost all important functions; from reproduction to hair and hoof growth and more.
- Primary Copper Deficiency-the most common cause of copper deficiency on the central coast is a very low level of copper in the diet due to copper deficiency in the soil.
- Secondary Copper Deficiency-Interference with copper absorption.
- High levels of molybdenum in the soil or water.
- High levels of sulfur in the soil, water or feed (yellow salt blocks, rotten egg smelling water etc.)
- Infertility (poor pregnancy rates
- Poor weight gains
- Light Haircoat (angus cattle tend to have a brown, “burnt” haircoat and herefords turn yellow)
- Weakness in calves
- Lowered resistance to disease and decreased vaccine efficacy.
- Sudden Death
Dietary Requirements for Copper
- Cattle should receive approximately 4-10 parts per million (ppm) of copper from pasture, range or hay.
- The dietary requirement for cattle may be drastically more in cases where there is excessive molybdenum (Cu:Mo <2:1) or sulfates in the diet.
- Dietary requirements may also be higher in areas with excessive cadmium, zinc or calcium (limestone).
Determining Copper Status
- While it is possible to test soil, feed and water for the various minerals involved in the disorder, it may be more practical to test the cattle to determine their copper status.
- Blood testing for copper is an inexpensive method of screening a herd for advanced deficiency situations.
- Liver samples are more indicative of the overall copper (and many other minerals) status of an animal as the liver is the reservoir for copper and deficiencies may not be apparent in the serum until the liver supply is nearly exhausted.Liver copper samples may be indicated for monitoring the effectiveness of copper supplementation
- Copper deficiency can be treated and prevented in a number of ways:
- Injectable copper glycinate
- This product may provide enough copper for several months in moderate copper deficient areas.
- Is available through your veterinarian.
- Salt-mineral mixes
- Often contain 0.2-0.5% copper
- May not be sufficient in severely deficient areas
- Molasses blocks
- Similar to salt-mineral mixes
- Copper Boluses
- Given orally via a balling gun
- Generally gives effective doses of copper slowly over 6-12 months.
- Unfortunately they are somewhat difficult to administer!
- Available through your veterinarian
- A little/adequate copper is good, but too much copper can be extremely toxic or deadly (especially to sheep and goats!).
- Sheep can die from copper toxicities at extremely low levels (even in normally formulated feeds for other species)
Retained Placentas in Cattle
The placenta or afterbirth is the name for the membranes that surround the calf and provide nutrition during gestation before it is born. The membranes may look like they have “buttons”, these are the cotyledons that connect to the uterus and provide blood supply to the placenta.Normally the placenta detaches from the uterus within minutes and up to 12 hours of birth. It is considered a retained placenta (RP) if it has not been expelled within 24 hours. One of the amazing differences between cattle and horses is that a RP of 3 or more hours in a horse is considered an emergency!
A retained placenta provides a means of entry of organic and inorganic material (manure, dirt, air) that contain a significant load of bacteria. These bacteria may colonize the uterus and set up an infection and lead to the cow becoming ill or even die. The infection in the uterus may even cause significant inflammation and damage to the uterus leading to a significant delay before she can get bred again.
There are a number of common causes of retained placentas:
- Difficult birth (calf is too big or positioned incorrectly
- Cesarean Section
- Dead and gas filled fetuses
- Energy or protein deficiencies
- Vitamin A deficiency
- Selenium deficiency
- Iodine deficiency
- Vitamin E deficiency
- Stress (Weather, transportation, handling or poor feed conditions)
- Infectious Diseases or Toxins
- IBR or BVD viruses
- Foothill Abortion
- Pine Needle Abortion
Cows that have an RP for 24-48 hours and have a fever of over 103 degrees should receive treatment. A cow that is depressed or dehydrated should receive treatment from a veterinarian.Proactive treatment is important to prevent the condition from deteriorating in a short period of time. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO MANUALLY REMOVE THE PLACENTA! This may cause more damage to the uterus and can be life threatening!
There are many causes of retained placentas, so there is no simple answer, but if you are having more that 1% of your herd developing an RP:
- Don’t allow cattle to become excessively fat or thin before calving
- Reduce stress
- Prevent exposure to pine needles and juniper trees
- Manage trace mineral and vitamin status
- Prevent Foothill Abortion
- Vaccinate for viral and bacterial causes of abortion.
Non-infectious Bovine Diseases/Disorders
Description and Cause
A common condition that often necessitates the use of antibiotics in cattle is “footrot” or what is medically termed interdigital phlegmon. It is an infection of the soft tissue between the claws (digits) of the feet and is caused by two anaerobic bacteria (these are bacteria that grow in the absence of oxygen ), Fusobacterium necrophorum and Bacteroides melaninogenicus. These bacteria are common in the environment and F. necrophorum is present in the rumen and feces of normal cattle. Once these bacteria invade the skin of the foot, they rapidly cause the condition we recognize as footrot. Injury or damage to the skin between the claws allows this invasion to occur. Common factors that can cause damage of this sort include:
· Stubble fields,
· Small rocks and pebbles,
· Abrasive surfaces.
Additionally, high temperatures and excess moisture or humidity causes the skin between the claws to chap and crack allowing these bacteria to invade. With wet winters and springs, the advent of hot weather provides the ideal conditions for footrot to become a major problem in the summer.
The appearance of footrot is fairly typical and begins as a swelling of the skin between the claws. This swelling usually begins within 24 hours of the onset of the infection. The toes become separated due to the swelling and the skin appears reddened. The foot is very painful and the animal can be quite lame at this time. A fissure or crack develops along the swollen area for part or all of the length of the interdigital space. Yellow to grayish tissue extends from this crack and the lesion has a characteristic foul odor. The area around the coronary band can be swollen and red. Affected cattle can have a mild fever, refuse feed, lose weight, and be mildly to severely lame. Also, it is common for affected cattle to lose a considerable amount of weight during a bout with footrot. If the footrot lesion does not heal satisfactorily, very serious problems can develop. The structures just beneath the skin of the foot include the bones of the foot, the tendons, and joint of the foot. If these underlying structures are invaded by bacteria-particularly the joints, bones, or tendons, therapy is very difficult and the chances of recovery are much lower.
Footrot can usually be recognized in typical cases; however, a number of conditions can be confused with footrot. These conditions include:
· Puncture wounds due to nails,
· Needles, or other sharp objects,
· Sole abscesses,
· Fractures of the bones of the foot,
and a newly recognized condition that primarily affects dairy cattle, “Hairy footwarts”.
All lame feet should be carefully examined and it should not be assumed that all lame cattle have footrot. If you have any questions regarding the condition affecting your cattle, you should contact your veterinarian for diagnosis and advice.
Treatment of footrot is relatively straightforward and if instituted early in the course of the disease is usually successful. For mild cases, local treatment can be accomplished by thoroughly cleaning the foot, applying an astringent (such as 5% copper sulfate), and then applying an antibacterial dressing. For moderate or severe cases, systemic antibiotic therapy is usually recommended. All label directions should be carefully followed including withdrawal times before slaughter. If a dose higher than that listed on the label is used, the antibiotic is being used in an extra-label manner and a veterinarian’s prescription is needed and an extended withdrawal time determined by your veterinarian must be observed. If deeper structures of the foot become infected, consult your veterinarian.
The most important preventative measures are to insure that damage to the feet of cattle is minimized. Other preventive measures include footbaths, feeding of organic iodine, feeding of zinc methionine, and/or vaccines. Footbaths can be used to prevent cases; however, they are not particularly useful in the face of an outbreak. The most common solutions used are 2% formalin, and 5% copper sulfate. The two compounds must be used with caution from both animal health and environmental aspects. The formalin solution is very caustic and will damage your skin or eyes if splashed or spilled. The copper sulfate can be fatal to cattle if they drink it and must be disposed of carefully to avoid damaging aquatic plants and animals. Footbaths should be used 3 to 4 times per week to be effective and should not be used for long periods of time (greater than 3 weeks). The cattle should have clean feet before entering the foot baths (pre-washing may be necessary) and only 300 head can be done before the solution should be changed. Using formalin footbaths too frequently (daily for 4-5 days) can cause irreversible damage to the cattle’s feet.
There are also commercial vaccines that have limited effectiveness in preventing footrot in cattle; it is important to strategically time the administration of these vaccines so that maximum protection is achieved during the time of year when cattle are at the most risk. Your veterinarian will also know of local factors that may be of importance in preventing footrot, so be sure to discuss this matter with him/her before spending a lot of time, money or effort on control and prevention measures. Since footrot is an infectious disease it is important that your cattle’s immunity is not abnormal and thus a good feeding and supplementation program is necessary. The key to managing footrot is prevention, because treating a large number of individual animals can take a lot of the fun out of summer.
By John Maas, DVM, MS
Coccidiosis causes significant economic losses in cattle. Although most cattle are exposed to coccidia and infected, most of the infections are self-limiting and mild or asymptomatic. The parasites that cause this condition are members of the species Eimeria, and the most important of this species for causing disease in cattle are Eimeria bovis and Eimeria zuernii.
The life cycle of these parasites is complex. Single cell oocysts are passed in the feces of cattle, are resistant to disinfectants, and can remain in the environment (particularly moist, shady areas) for long periods of time and maintain their infectivity. The oocysts sporulate and these sporulated oocysts are ingested by the host and the sporozoites are released in the intestine. Sporozoites enter the intestinal cells, form trophozoites, which in turn divide into many merozoites. These merozoites penetrate additional intestinal epithelial cells and form more meronts. Eventually, macrogametes and microgametes are formed which combine to produce the next generation of oocysts. When the oocysts are mature, they rupture the host cell and are released into the lumen of the intestine and pass out in the feces. The reproduction of these organisms is phenomenal as illustrated by the following:
1 oocyst X 8 sporozoites
X 120,000 first generation merozoites
X 30 second generation merozoites
X 80% macrogametocytes
= 23,040,000 oocysts
Cause and Severity of the Disease
The potential damage to the intestinal cells is obvious. It is estimated that as few as 50,000 infective oocysts ingested by a young susceptible calf can cause severe disease. The replication of the coccidia within the host’s intestinal cells and the subsequent rupture of the cells is responsible for the disease and the clinical signs that develop.
The severity of the disease is directly related to the dose of infective oocysts that are ingested. The more oocysts ingested, the more severe the subsequent disease. With light infections, the damage to the gut cells is minimal and because the cells in the gastrointestinal tract are replaced rapidly the damage is quickly repaired. In the case of heavy infections, about two weeks after the oocysts are ingested, most of the epithelial cells at the base of the intestinal glands are occupied by meronts or gametocytes. As these cells rupture, damage is severe and there is loss of blood into the feces. Also, fluid, electrolytes, and blood proteins (albumin) are lost.
Most animals infected with coccidia do not show signs of illness. This is due to the normally low dose and after a course of infection the animal is immune to that particular Eimeria species. However, this does not mean they are immune to all Eimeria species. Therefore, coccidiosis is primarily a disease of the young where there is crowding, stress, and/or nonimmune animals. Older cows certainly act as a reservoir and shed oocysts into the environment. Stress such as shipping, weaning, dietary changes, steroid therapy, and other problems can precipitate an outbreak of coccidiosis. Older cattle immune to their own endemic species of coccidia can become infected and/or ill when moved to a new herd and exposed to a different species.
The clinical signs of coccidiosis can include the following:
· Diarrhea (bloody at times)
· Straining (tenesmus)
· Loss of appetite
· Fever (slight)
Death (in severe cases)
Many cattle are affected and experience weight loss or decreased weight gains without showing obvious illness and these cattle account for the majority of the economic losses. Your veterinarian can diagnose coccidiosis on the basis of clinical signs, fecal oocysts examinations, and post mortem examination of dead animals (if that occurs). By John Maas, DVM, MS
When and how to help!
Calving season can be a very stressful time period for you and your calves. If you haven’t been involved with a cow having a difficult labor, it can all seem overwhelming. See below a simple guide for calving.
Reducing the Number of DOA Calves
John H. Kirk, DVM, MPVM
Veterinary Medicine Extension (UC Davis),
Keep in mind that the calving process under normal conditions is a continually progressive event. There are three general stages to the calving event:
1. Relaxation and dilatation of the cervix;
2. Active pushing to expel the calf
3. Passing of the placenta or membranes and shrinking of the uterus. Each stage leads into the next stage.
Stage 1 – There is little outward sign of uterine activities as the cow may only show some restlessness, raise her tail occasionally or appear uncomfortable. All the time, the uterus is beginning to contract forcing the fluid filled membranes through the dilating cervix. This stage may last up to 24 hours.
Stage 2 -This stage begins when the placenta or membranes appear through the vulva and ends when the calf is born. At this point, the calf mortality clock begins to tick. The longer it ticks, i.e., the long calving takes, the high the calf mortality and the more “DOAs” that occur. Mature cows usually take 30 minutes to 1 hour to deliver the calf once the membranes appear. First calf heifers often take long averaging 1 to 4 hours. Once the calf appears, it should never go back in. As time goes along, more and more of the calf should be seen as the cows continues to push.
Stage 3– Delivery of the placenta or membranes.
Idea Two: Have a pad of paper and pencil available in the calving area to write down when the membranes first appear. Also note the time the membranes rupture. Tape the time pad to the calving stall with the cows number and times. Keep track of the time since the membranes first appeared. Remember that lack of progress with calving is a very strong signal that there is a problem. Examine older cows within an hour after the membranes have appeared if no calf has appeared or the calf appeared but no more of the calf has come out through the vulva. Give heifers 2 hours maximum before examining them for problems. The mortality clock is ticking all the time! Waiting too long is the biggest cause of calf mortality at calving.
Idea Three: Be very clean when examining the cows for problems. After restraining the cow, put on gloves and clean the vulva and hind parts of the cow thoroughly with lots of warm water and disinfectant soap. It is often helpful to tie the cow’s tail to herself to keep it out of the way. Don’t tie the cow’s tail to the pen or chutes as it may cause injury if the cow goes down or escapes. Once you and the cow are very clean, apply lubricant to your arms and the cow’s vulva and gently examine the placement of the calf within the uterine canal.
Idea Four: Determine the position of the calf and when possible return the calf to the normal calving position with the head resting on the forelegs or the rear legs both entering the birth canal. Keep in mind that it may be necessary to push the calf back in to gain room to manipulate the legs or head. Also be aware of the possibility of multiple calves particularly if there seems to be too many legs in the birth canal. Remember that front legs have three joints up to the elbow while rear legs only have two joints up to the hock.
Idea Five: Before attempting to pull the calf, apply at least a gallon of lubricant into the birth canal. It is much better to err on the side of too much lubricant than to have too little. Once you begin to pull the calf, it will be very hard to add additional lubricant when the calf gets stuck.
Idea Six: Don’t be in a big rush to get the calf out. Let the cow help you deliver the calf. When the cow pushes, you should pull. When the cow rests, just hold what you have. Refrain from using any pulling device other than a calf jack or two people pulling. When the calf’s shoulders or hips have passed through the vulva, pull in an arc down towards the cow’s feet. This will often prevent a hiplock. Always check for a second calf particularly if the first calf seems small.
Idea Seven: If the uterus seems to be twisted when you examine the calf; the calf seems extremely large; or you are unable to easily pull the calf after getting it in the proper position, STOP! Just stop and call the veterinarian to provide you assistance. Attempts to muscle out the calf will only lead to the death of the calf and post-calving complications for the cow.
Remember that calving is a progressive procedure so keep time of the calving events. Be very clean when you examine the cow to determine if a problem exists. Let the cow help you deliver the calf and call for help before using excessive force to get the calf out.
John H. Kirk, DVM, MPVM
Always Remember the 3 Golden Rules of Obstetrics!
1. Lube, Lube, Lube (and more lube)
3. Safety (for you and the cow!)
Building a relationship with your vet to help PREVENT Disease
California Cattlemen’s Magazine, December 2007
Save an endangered species…your rural veterinarian!
You’ve probably heard the stories, “We don’t have a large animal vet in our area since Doc retired” or “I can’t get a vet to come out on the weekends to work cattle”. It has become a common refrain. There are simply not enough rural veterinarians in practice on a national level and it is worse in the western states. Several beef cattle areas in California do not have a cattle veterinarian at the present time. The American Veterinary Medical Association estimates that only 17% of U.S. veterinarians do any food animal practice at all. At the same time our food animal production systems have become more complicated and the need for continuing education and advanced training of food animal veterinarians has become more critical. Congress is even beginning to see what a problem this is and has slowly begun to address the issue. But you may not want to count on them to solve the problem.
I receive dozens of calls and emails each week from producers looking for help on cattle health problems. One of my first questions is usually, “What veterinarian are you working with?” About half the time the answer is, “I’m not working with a vet on this problem.” Further discussion will usually reveal about 50% of these folks are too cheap to call their local veterinarian, while the other 50% don’t have a veterinarian in their area or don’t know who to call from a nearby location. Given the extent of the problem and the fact that it is probably not going to solved immediately, there are a number of actions that all producers can take to help deal with this problem and support your rural veterinarian—if you still have one!
1. Build a valid Veterinarian-Client-Patient relationship. This is the key to avoiding many problems and opening the door to many solutions, including prescription drugs and emergency help. This relationship may be with an individual veterinarian or with a group practice. It helps eliminate the problem of “veterinarian roulette” when you really need help.
(((N.B. From your veterinarian:
1. Diagnosis of pregnancy (preg checking) is practicing veterinary medicine and is therefore legal to be performed ONLY by a veterinarian.
2. When we come see your cattle at Bang’s vaccination AND Pregnancy checking times, we are on the lookout for infectious disease (i.e. Trich, BVD, etc) and other reasons for poor condition and low numbers of bred cows.
3. Pregnancy diagnosis time is often the only time that we will see your cows and therefore it is inappropriate for us to diagnose or give veterinary advise if we haven’t been out to see them.
4. Veterinarians are often competitive or cheaper then lay preg checkers!)))
2. Be willing to pay for advice and not just services. Many of us think we only need to hire a veterinary professional from time to time for routine services such as vaccinating heifers. When doing this work, they may be on the ranch for a few hours once a year. Then when a complex problem such as an abortion outbreak occurs we assume they know all that is necessary to solve the problem over the phone. These are unrealistic expectations! It requires a thorough understanding of individual herd management factors to solve complex problems. The only way to develop this understanding is for the veterinarian to work with the rancher on the total cattle health program. This means cattle producers need to involve their veterinarian and get advice on the important aspects of the cattle production system.
3. Plan ahead. Develop a planned vaccination program with your veterinarian and review that program every year. Develop a reproductive herd health plan—including when to pregnancy check the cattle, when to Trich check and semen check the bulls, and how to wean the calves. Develop a deworming strategy and check to see if it is working with fecal egg counts. Develop prevention programs for common diseases such as pneumonia and foot rot.
4. Establish treatment protocols for the common diseases on your operation. This would include diseases like pinkeye, pneumonia, calf scours, and foot rot. This includes which drugs and doses to use for these conditions. It also would include any prescriptions that may be necessary for these drugs if they are used in an Extra-Label or Off-Label manner. It should also include how to administer the drugs and how to perform the treatments. For example, long acting tetracycline may be the drug of choice for pinkeye that you and your veterinarian decide upon; however, if you don’t use disposable latex gloves to examine the eye and don’t use disinfectants on halters or nose tongs used to restrain the animals you may be doing more to spread the disease than to control it. Another example would be the treatment of calf scours—the drugs used are a minor concern versus the sanitation of the equipment used to treat the calves.
5. Be sure to know how to recognize the common diseases. Have your veterinarian train you and your personnel to spot the common diseases your cattle may contract. This training will make you a better observer of cattle health problems. Also, learn to know when “you don’t know”, so you can call for backup.
6. Have the right equipment and drugs on hand for common problems. This is a critical part of the planning and training effort.
7. Examine sick cattle. Learn to use a thermometer, to count respiratory rate, and pulse rate. This will be of tremendous help when you call your veterinarian about unanticipated problems.
8. Get a diagnosis. When cattle die or have unexplained problems, work with your veterinarian and the diagnostic laboratory to find out what the problems are. This is part of the ongoing monitoring that is necessary to make good, informed decisions.
9. Have valid prescriptions on hand. For any Extra-Label drugs you use, be sure to have the prescriptions on file.
10. Keep records. For all your treatments, vaccinations, deworming, etc. keep records and review those records with your veterinarian on a yearly basis.
There are also a few things you should not do when working with your veterinarian. If you have no intention of paying for your veterinarian’s services, do not call. All the vet’s costs are up front, so if 1 out 10 clients doesn’t pay; it severely impacts a rural veterinarian’s ability to stay in business. It also has a negative psychological impact on the veterinarian and their family. Also, don’t ask your veterinarian to do anything illegal. This includes cutting corners on health certificates and prescription drug use.
Hopefully, you have a good veterinarian in your area and someday there will be a replacement to take over. If we all follow the ideas listed above it will help us retain this resource in our rural areas.
California Cattlemen’s Magazine, December 2007
John Maas, DVM, MS, DACVN, DACVIM
School of Veterinary Medicine
University of California, Davis