High-risk pinkeye season

A cow infected with pinkeye. Photo by Contributed

Lower than average rainfall over winter and increasing numbers of reared heifers are two key risk factors driving early and increased numbers of pinkeye cases this season.

Early activation of your prevention strategy may be warranted.

Young heifers are the highest risk class and often take the entire focus of a control program.

While other classes may not present as high risk, their susceptibility and risk of infection should also be considered and addressed.

Contact your herd health adviser early this season to ensure your strategy is comprehensive and encompasses your herd’s individual requirements.

Activate your prevention strategy early

Coopers Bovilis Piliguard Pinkeye Vaccine is the registered vaccine available in Australia.

Dosing three to six weeks prior to the onset of the expected pinkeye season is recommended. Don’t delay — calves can be vaccinated from two weeks of age.

Autogenous vaccines produced from bacteria isolated within the farm are available and particularly valuable when existing control strategies don’t yield the desired outcomes.

Your veterinarian can provide a more comprehensive overview of the costs and benefits. Multiple pathogens may be responsible and can be isolated by diagnostic testing to more thoroughly determine appropriate prevention options.

Extrinsic factors affecting immunity should be considered within the strategy.

Stressors including transportation, weaning and overcrowding should all be minimised to reduce risk of disease. Nutrition, including vitamin and mineral intakes, should be assessed and supplementation introduced if deficiencies are present.

Internal parasites have the potential to lower immunity and directly decrease productivity, a complete control program will include surveillance and management of gastrointestinal worms.

Proactively manage key risk factors

Presence and transmission of pinkeye is often associated with high UV, dust and irritants which damage the cornea and make it more susceptible to infection.

Overcrowding, high stocking rates and poor ventilation can also increase susceptibility.

Fly control is an integral part of all pest control programs, so be prepared to start early this year.

Take the opportunity to establish a comprehensive Integrated Pest Management program if you don’t already have one.

Don’t overlook pain when treating

Segregate and treat early to achieve the most rapid recovery periods.

The use of topical antibiotics remains the most common and effective treatment; injectable options may also be directed for use by your veterinarian.

Pain relief should be incorporated into your treatment protocol for all pinkeye cases.

Patches remain a valuable method to reduce UV exposure in the recovery period.

If you need assistance, call your local dairy vet.

Dr Luke Morison is a key member of the ProDairy team, working for Apiam Animal Health as a veterinarian and Business Manager for Dairy.