Hot Weather Causes Summer Diseases to be More Prevalent

The summer pasture season started earlier this year for much of the country due to a mild winter and above average temperatures this spring. With that extended season and current weather conditions, stocker operators need to be on the lookout for pinkeye, blackleg and foot rot.

According to Dr. Larry Hollis, Kansas State University beef veterinarian, pinkeye season will likely last much longer this year. “We’re seeing pinkeye earlier than we normally do and we’re going to see it longer than we normally do,” he predicts, due to the quick warm up we experienced this spring.

“One of the things I think people are going to have to be conscious of is if they’re using fly tags as part of a pinkeye control program.”Hollis explains that cattle were tagged earlier in the year and turned out earlier due to the mild winter and earlier green-up. Thus the efficacy of the fly tags will wane before the flies do.

“Those fly tags are going to runout before the end of the normal season because we put them in earlier this year,” Hollis says. “So don’t be surprised if you start seeing a lot of pinkeye problems late in the season.”

Cattle may need fresh ear tags or producers can implement a different type of fly control to protect cattle through the rest of the fly season.

Another problem that rears it’s ugly head during conditions producers are experiencing this summer is blackleg. Blackleg is a spore-forming organism that lives in the soil for years, he explains.

‘If we’ve got big, lush pasture growth where cattle are not grazing close to the ground, it’s usually not much of a problem,” Hollis says.“But when we get into situations where we’re overgrazing pastures or really grazing it down short, then the chance of picking up those spores out of the dirt increases.”

Cattle infected with blackleg appear to be depressed, lame and show signs of swelling. Often calves with blackleg appear to have air trapped under the skin,and exhibit a “crackling” sound when a hand is run down the calf’s body. Death usually occurs within 12-48 hours.

“Blackleg can sure jump up there and bite folks. In a short grass year, that’s one of those years for sure when you need to make sure you have your cows’ vaccinations current, as well as your calves and stockers,” Hollis advises. “Obviously calves are at a higher risk, but cows can die too, and they will.This summer may be one of those years when we have a lot of blackleg death loss.”

A third and pesky problem for summer stockers this year may come as a surprise, considering the drought.

“One of the things that dry weather does is that it helps with foot rot, but we still have it. We have it every year, and most of the time it is in cattle drinking out of ponds because they’re getting their feet wet as they move back and forth. And some of the plants, the dry stalks are sticking up where they may poke in between an animals’ claws,” he says.

If that happens and the plants penetrate the skin, the puncture can take the bacteria that causes foot rot into the skin. “Foot rot never goes away and, in some cases, it is worse in a dry year because cattle spend so much time in a pond, walking in and out,” he says.

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