Vaccinate For Blackleg in Cattle

As grass becomes sparse under the summer sun, the risk of Blackleg grows, according Mark Keaton, Baxter Bulletin.
calendar icon 13 August 2013
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With the dry conditions that cattlemen are dealing with, ranchers need to be aware of blackleg, writes Mark Keaton.

There were two confirmed cattle deaths last week from blackleg — one in Lonoke County and the other in Sebastian County.

When pastures start to get short, cattle will pick up small particles of soil as they graze. Blackleg is from soil-borne organisms. Most cow-calf producers vaccinate for blackleg.

"If the second vaccination is not given, the calf is not protected against blackleg and is susceptible to the disease."

They, however, do not follow labeled instructions. Most blackleg vaccines require two shots 4-6 weeks apart.

Most producers do not gather the cattle for the second shot. If the second vaccination is not given, the calf is not protected against blackleg and is susceptible to the disease.

Outbreaks of blackleg in the past have occurred in cattle on farms in which recent excavations have occurred, which suggests that disturbance of soil may activate latent spores. Commonly, the animals that contract blackleg are of the beef breeds, in excellent health, gaining weight and usually the best animals of their group.

Outbreaks occur in which a few new cases are found each day for several days. Most occur in cattle from 6 months to 2 years old, but thrifty calves as young as 6 weeks and cattle as old as 10-12 years may be affected. The disease usually occurs in summer and fall and is uncommon during winter.

Usually, onset is sudden and a few cattle may be found dead without premonitory signs. Acute lameness and marked depression are common.

Initially, there is a fever but, by the time clinical signs are obvious, the temperature may be normal or subnormal. Characteristic edematous and crepitant swellings develop in the hip, shoulder, chest, back, neck or elsewhere.

Blackleg can be controlled by vaccination. Always be sure to read and follow the instructions on the label when using a vaccine. Blackleg vaccine should be administered subcutaneously (under the skin) in the neck area.

The common blackleg vaccines are referred to as “7-way” or “8-way,” because they protect against other clostridial diseases such as malignant edema, black disease, enterotoxemia, etc.

The vaccine to prevent blackleg costs less than a dollar per dose. If you compare the cost of the vaccination to the value of a calf, you can buy a lot of vaccine for the price of one calf.

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