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Prepare for Pinkeye Season

University of Minnesota Extension, Stearns County News
May 6, 2015

Source:  Emily Wilmes, Extension Educator-Livestock
University of Minnesota Extension
Stearns, Benton & Morrison Counties


Prepare for Pinkeye Season
By Emily Wilmes, University of Minnesota Extension

ST. CLOUD, Minn. (05/06/15) — As the weather heats up and gets wetter, flies will become more prevalent.  Flies present a whole host of issues to livestock producers, including pinkeye—caused by face flies spreading the causative agent, Moraxella bovis.  Specifically for beef producers, pinkeye can cause reductions in weaning weights of as much as 17-65 pounds/animal.

Once pinkeye begins to spread through a herd, it's very difficult to contain and control.  So, what can be done to prevent it? The first step in prevention is to control the flies.  There are several options for fly control, including fly tags, pour-ons, sprays, dust bags and back rubbers.  Fly tags perform best when administered at the proper time. Unfortunately, this usually means cattle must be brought in for the sole purpose of administering fly tags.  Often, tags are administered as much as 60 days prior to fly season, which can compromise the tag's efficacy. Fly tags are more effective in cows than calves, but tagging both is best.

In addition to fly control, there are several pinkeye vaccines that may help.  As always, consult your veterinarian about the vaccine options and proper timing for administering them.  Many of these vaccines require a booster dose for greater efficacy, which could actually work to your advantage. Since calves must be brought in for a second dose of vaccine, fly tags can also be administered at a time closer to the start of fly season.

Even with the best prevention methods, pinkeye may still make its way into your herd.  Proper treatment is necessary to ensure full recovery.  Generally, a long-acting oxytetracycline antibiotic is very effective.  If there is resistance, your veterinarian may need to conduct a culture to determine which antibiotic the bacteria is sensitive to.

Another key component to treating pinkeye is protecting the eye from sunlight, which is just as important as the antibiotic. Because ultraviolet rays can activate enzymes that cause more damage to the eye when the eye is infected, eyepatches are very effective in protecting the eyes from sunlight. For severe pinkeye, consider having your veterinarian suture the eyelid shut to protect the eye from light.

Pasture management is another component of pinkeye control. Grass that is headed out can irritate eyes, causing them to tear and thus attracting face flies. Keeping pastures trimmed can reduce this irritation.  The best way to deal with pinkeye is to get ahead of it and stay ahead of it. Do this by using a broad-based approach that includes fly control, vaccination and pasture management. Consult with your veterinarian to develop a program tailored to your operation.


Emily Wilmes
Extension Educator, Ag Production Systems - Livestock
(320) 255-6169
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