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Pink eye pain…

Pink eye – or corneal ulceration – causes farmers and stock a lot of grief! While it usually occurs in young stock from November through to March, it’s increasingly being seen over the winter months too. Pink eye is mainly caused by the bacteria Moraxella bovis and Moraxella bovoculi, both of which are present in the nose and eye secretions of clinical and carrier animals.

The Moraxella bacteria are spread between animals by flies or close contact. Damage to the surface of the eye from dust, UV light or trauma from grass seeds can also cause eye disease as well as increasing the risk of pink eye.

The early stages of pinkeye is a watery eye and whiteness on the cornea.

How can I prevent pink eye from occurring?

It’s hard to change the weather, so risk factors such as UV light and dust are hard to manage. Ways to try to prevent pink eye include:

  • Increase the immunity in calves and heifers by vaccination with Piligard.  This reduces the incidence and severity of pink eye infections caused by Moraxella bovis (but not Moraxella bovoculi unfortunately). To be effective, vaccination must occur at least 3–6 weeks prior to the onset of the pink eye season i.e. now! Good nutrition is also important to maximise calf and heifer immune function
  • Reduce the spread though close contact between animals: Minimise yarding (especially in dusty or windy conditions) and reduce stocking rates. Affected animals should be treated and isolated: we describe the treatment of pink eye here in a previous post
  • Control fly numbers with insecticides such as Easy-Dose or Arrest, or fly traps in areas where there is a concentration of flies (such as around feeders or shelters)

heifer pink eye before and after treatment

What about those zebra cows?

Some interesting recent research out of Japan showed that turning black cows into zebra cows with white paint reduced the number of flies that landed on the cows by 50%. Fly-repelling behaviours (such as skin twitches, stamping, tail swishing and ear flicks) were also reduced. The graphs below (which we’ve adapted from the paper ) show these differences: the researchers also painted black stripes on some of the cows, to rule out the effect of the smell of the paint discouraging the flies.

*If you have any questions regarding pink eye, then please contact Farm Servcies on 1300 838 700 for a chat with one of our veterinarians. As Halloween is coming up, we’d also like to remind you of these pink eye-themed treats. They’re delicious in school lunchboxes 🙂

handmade sweets like bloodshot eyes

Blitz together 1 packet of Marie biscuits, a tin of sweetened condensed milk and the grated rind of a lemon. Roll into balls and cool in the fridge. Cut a packet of red glacé cherries into halves. Melt 225g of white cooking chocolate (but save a few bits unmelted for later). Dip eyeballs in the chocolate and top with halved cherry irises and currant pupils. Leave to set in fridge. Melt the last of the white chocolate, add red food colouring and mix. Draw on blood vessels with a toothpick. Bon appétit!