Preventing pinkeye

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By Steve Moore

Recently we sent out to many Henry County Beef Producers, via newsletter, an article from UK Veterinarian Dr. Michele Arnold concerning causes and complications of one of the most common problems relating to beef production.

Pinkeye is a complicated, multifaceted disease.  It is often stated that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” and this is nowhere more appropriate than with pinkeye.  The best plan is to reduce or remove as many risk factors as possible in order to keep the eyes healthy and better equipped to fend off disease. Prevention is based on maximizing herd immune status, minimizing the presence of pathogens, and maintaining as irritant-free environment as possible.

Maximize Herd Immune Status

An overall good level of nutrition, adequate vitamin and trace mineral intake, a comprehensive vaccination program, and parasite control are all exceptionally important in improving the cow’s ability to fight off any disease process (not just pinkeye). 

Maintain an irritant free environment

Prevent eye irritation with good face fly control, mow tall grass, and reduce sources of stress (such as overcrowding/overgrazing) if possible.  Control face flies with ear tags impregnated with insecticide and topically administered insecticides by way of back and face rubbers or dust bags they must walk under to get to water or mineral. 

Provide shade to protect from UV rays.  Clean drinking water is critical because intake is greater with clean water and this helps provide plenty of fluid in the eye, especially in dry, dusty, and/or windy conditions.

Minimize the concentration of the bacteria(s) that cause pinkeye (M. bovis and M. bovoculi).   Vaccination may prove beneficial, depending on the strain of bacteria involved.  Immediate detection and isolation of affected animals followed by effective treatment with long-acting antibiotics will shorten the period of corneal ulceration and speed healing time.

  Perhaps most importantly, treatment will reduce the duration of the carrier state when recurrence and transmission most often occur.  Active cases of pinkeye with excessive tearing attract flies that spread the bacteria so topical application of a fly repellant to the face will help reduce vector spread.