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Diseases of the Beef Cow Herd. By David R. Hawkins Michigan State University. Diseases That Impact Reproduction. Brucellosis Leptospirosis Campylobacteriosis Trichomoniasis Respiratory Viruses IBR & BVD. Brucellosis. Bacteria – Brucella abortus

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Diseases of the beef cow herd

Diseases of the Beef Cow Herd


David R. Hawkins

Michigan State University

Diseases that impact reproduction
Diseases That Impact Reproduction

  • Brucellosis

  • Leptospirosis

  • Campylobacteriosis

  • Trichomoniasis

  • Respiratory Viruses

    • IBR & BVD


  • Bacteria – Brucella abortus

  • Localized infection in uterus, udder, testes & joints – abortion in last trimester of pregnancy

  • Diagnose with blood or fetal tissue sample

  • Transmissible to humans – undulant fever

  • Federally monitored

  • Prevent with calfhood vaccination – 4 to 8 mo. (recommended but not required). Must be done by DVM – records at MDA


  • Bacteria – 5 strains

  • Fever, off feed, abortion at any time, anemia, clotted milk & bloody urine

  • Diagnose with blood or fetal tissue sample

  • Annual vaccination is recommended in Michigan

  • Deer and wildlife can carry the bacteria


  • Bacteria – Vibrio fetus

  • Irregular heat cycle (fetus dies after fertilization and is reabsorbed) (4 to 7 mo.)

  • True venereal disease that is spread via natural service.

  • Diagnose with vaginal or preputial mucous

  • Vaccinate prior to breeding season


  • Protozoa – Trichomonas fetus

  • True venereal disease

  • Diagnose with vaginal or preputial mucous

  • Use A.I., virgin bulls and vaccinate prior to breeding season.

Respiratory disease complex
Respiratory Disease Complex

  • Same as earlier discussion with feedlot cattle.

  • IBR, BVD, PI3

  • BRSV

  • Pneumonia

  • IBR and BVD can cause abortion

Calf scours
Calf Scours

  • Chronic &/or acute diarrhea of calves – usually occurs in the first two weeks after birth.

  • Causative agents

    • E. coli

    • Rota/corona viruses

  • Sanitation & Colostrum are very important.

  • Vaccinate cows prior to calving &/or calves at birth.

Calf scours continued
Calf Scours (continued)

  • Treatment

    • Prevent dehydration with electrolytes

      • 8% fluid loss = depression, 12% = death

      • 1 quart orally every 4 to 6 hours

    • Antibiotics and sulfa boluses.

    • Keep calf warm and stress free

    • Isolate infected calves to prevent infection of other calves.


  • Mycobacterium bovis

  • Somewhat transmissible to humans

  • Federally monitored

  • Michigan was declared free of TB in 1979.

  • TB found in deer in 1994 and in other wildlife since then.

  • Pneumonia and abscessed lymph nodes.

  • Diagnose with caudal fold test.

Tuberculosis continued
Tuberculosis (continued)

  • Several positive cases have been diagnosed in northeastern part of lower peninsula.

  • Michigan lost it’s “TB free” status, but now is hoping to achieve “split state” status.

  • All bovine in state are being tested. Whole herd annual test is recommended.

  • May take 20 years or longer to eradicate.


  • Mycobacterium paratuberculosis

  • Chronic diarrhea and weight loss

  • Incubation period can be several years before symptoms appear.

  • Diagnose with blood & fecal tests

  • Cull infected animals and prevent fecal contamination.

  • Some herds are doing annual tests.


  • Blood disease spread by ticks, flies and mosquitos in southern U.S.

  • High fever, anemia and death

  • Vaccinate &/or treat with antibiotics

  • Some states (WI) and Canada require a negative test before entry


  • Viral disease in western U.S. spread by ticks & flies

  • Ulcers in mouth, fever & lameness

  • Vaccinate or treat with antibiotics and sulfa.


  • Inflammation of mucous membranes near the eye followed by opaque cornea. Acute cases result in permanent loss of sight.

  • Face flies are the primary carrier.

  • Vaccinate or treat with cortisone and antibiotics. Eye patch will protect eye during recovery period

  • Breeds lacking pigmentation around eyes are more susceptible.

Fly control
Fly Control

  • Spraying, dusting, dipping, ear tags & oral larvacides

  • Sanitation – remove breeding sites of flies

  • Ear tags impregnated with insecticides have been very effective

  • Change brands each year to avoid resistant strains.

Lice grubs
Lice & Grubs

  • Usually apply a “pour-on” organophosphate compound in the fall.

  • Some products are effective for both internal and external parasites.

    • Ivermectin, Dectomax, Eprinex, etc.

  • Others are effective only against lice – Lysoff

  • Observe cut off dates for your area

Internal parasites
Internal Parasites

  • Roundworms, tapeworms and flukes

  • Anemia, reduced performance and rough haircoats are symptoms

  • Several anthelmintics (de-worming agents) are available as bolus, paste, injectable, etc.

  • Usually de-worm the breeding herd twice per year to break the life cycle of the parasites

Nutritional diseases
Nutritional Diseases

  • Michigan is deficient in iodine, cobalt, selenium and marginal in copper. Most of these can be supplemented in trace mineral salt.

  • Grass tetany is due to a magnesium deficiency in lush growing forage. Include MgO in mineral mix, if it is a problem.

  • Legume bloat – Poloxalene may help.

  • Toxins – some pasture plants can be toxic.