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Battling Pinkeye Outbreaks

Updated: Sep 3, 2020

A long, cool spring in our area certainly led to a late fly season, but these pests are going strong now. In spite of a relatively mild fly season, several herds have struggled with severe pinkeye outbreaks. Pinkeye is a disease that is difficult to vaccinate for and the commercially available vaccines have only marginal efficacy. If you choose to vaccinate for this disease, we recommend using an autogenous vaccine, a type of customized vaccine made directly from cultures of individual cases of disease. We carry one such pinkeye vaccine that was made in conjunction with the Central Virginia Cattlemen’s Association and other area veterinarians using multiple strains of bacteria cultured from local cases of pinkeye.

Pinkeye must be tackled from all angles for adequate prevention and control. Treating large numbers of animals with antibiotics can be costly, but loss of productivity (reduced grazing time leading to reduced growth and milk production) plus reduced sales price due to pinkeye scars far outweigh the cost of antibiotics. Fly control is one of the most important methods of prevention because flies can efficiently spread pinkeye through a herd. Waterers and feed troughs are other potential areas of transmission. Brushhogging overgrown pasture before turnout and providing adequate shade can also reduce irritation to the eye, which in turn reduces the risk of pinkeye. Keeping animals in general good health through routine vaccination and good nutrition will also make animals more resilient.

Pinkeye vaccination can be effective in the face of an outbreak, but is most effective early in fly season (April). Animals receiving the vaccine for the first time need a booster one month after the initial dose. An annual booster is recommended after the initial series. Please contact us if you would like more information about vaccinating for pinkeye.

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