Cows are fairly resilient animals, not often falling prey to disease and sickness, but it is important to know which illnesses are common and how to treat and prevent them.
If you are planning on raising cattle it would be prudent to have a book on hand and to learn about the various complications that may take place. This is especially important if you are buying calves or planning on having calves on your land one day.
With increasing costs of raising cattle, good herd health care is very important for any beef operation. Prevention is always the easiest and least expensive manner of controlling disease and illness. Clean pastures and bedding, fresh water and good feed every day is a positive start. Vaccination programs and parasite control managed though veterinary care plus a frequent observation of every animal in the herd is the final ingredients to success in raising cattle.
Stress is a major factor in health for cattle. As such, health problems are more common during and after periods of high stress which may include calving, weaning, shipping and extreme weather conditions. Stress reduces a cow or steer’s ability to resist infection.
Sick cattle are first noticed by their abnormal behavior or physical condition. A loss of appetite, head down, drooping ears with a lack of energy, and scouring (repetitive diarrhea) are strong indicators. High temperatures usually indicate disease or infection. It is important to know that if just one of your cattle comes down with a sickness, all will need to be treated as all have been exposed.
Vaccinations and parasite medications are readily available through your veterinarian or farm supply store. The choice of remedy and time of application depend on a variety of elements, including the animal’s current state of health, nutritional level, disease prevalence in the herd, and the region in which the cattle are located.
To get you started in your journey to understanding cattle illnesses, here are the most common health concerns of cattle.
A number of factors can contribute to an outbreak within the herd, including inadequate nutrition, stress, and viral or bacterial infections. Good management and vaccination of cows and calves is the best way to prevent outbreaks of respiratory disease.
Brucellosis is a serious disease causing abortion and sterility in cattle. Vaccination is required for all heifers. Brucellosis most commonly enters a herd through the purchase of infected cattle. To help prevent brucellosis from entering your herd or infecting your land, vaccinate all heifers between ages 4 to 10 months, and purchase only brucellosis-vaccinated cattle.
These may include horn flies, face flies, stable flies, ticks and lice. The largest health problem comes from the additional stress these insects cause to animals. When infested, cattle spend more time in the shade and don’t graze, which causes poor performance. You can reduce these problems by using fly-repellent ear tags. Eliminating the areas where pests reproduce also helps to reduce the severity of external parasites. Pour-on and dip treatments are effective in treating tick infested cattle.
Internal parasites include roundworms, lungworms, and liver flukes. These hidden parasites cause poor performance and occasionally death to calves. Cattle are likely to pick up internal parasites when they graze established pastures. Internal parasites also can be a big problem in confined areas.
Invasion of the stomach or intestinal wall by a parasite leads to poor digestion of nutrients and damage to organs. Signs of parasite infestation include scouring, rough hair coat, poor gains, and a potbelly appearance.
Use dewormers at strategic times during the year to reduce the numbers of internal parasites. Use veterinarian supervised fecal sampling to determine the severity of the infestation and the type of dewormer that will be the most effective.