Common Diseases in Cattle and How to Avoid Them

By Emily Folk

Nothing is more crucial to the successful flow of a farmer's land than promoting the wellbeing of his livestock and animals. For a farm to thrive, every animal must be taken care of accordingly. That means supporting their daily diets, offering them healthy lifestyles and recognizing common diseases that afflict their species to know the best preventative measures to take to avert them.

In fact, recognizing an illness in your herd could save you from a potentially dangerous outbreak that may affect your entire farm. It’s important to remember that not every sick animal will always appear visibly ill, either.

So how are you supposed to keep your farm thriving and healthy — just as it should be? Be sure to recognize the early warning signs of these top four cattle illnesses so that you can prevent an outbreak while maintaining a prosperous farmstead, too.

1. Bracken Poisoning

Maintaining healthy cattle means regulating the food they consume, too. While you may control what goes into their feed, they may be tempted to chew on the lethal plant source known as Bracken throughout the day.

Bracken poisoning is often fatal, which makes preventing this deadly disease even more crucial. Infected livestock may show signs of fever, weakened immune systems, and in the most extreme scenarios — death.

To assure your cattle aren’t tempted to eat this toxic plant, always provide your livestock with alternative and plentiful foliage options. Whenever bracken fern growth becomes an issue, use grazing methods and herbicide treatment to keep their populations at bay.

2. Foot Rot

If you have a cow in the herd that begins to show signs of unhealthy skin or a heightened inflammation centered in their feet, they may be suffering through a familiar and infectious condition known as foot rot.

Because this condition commonly affects the foot, most of the symptoms will appear in this area of cow's body. Swelling of the tissue will occur followed by a cracked hoof with decay in more extreme scenarios.

To prevent this dangerous illness from occurring, be sure to rotate your pastures daily so that they are not continually standing on the same potentially wet or damp lands. Keeping their feet healthy starts with improving the conditions that define your land. Make sure the cattle have access to clean, dry and maintained plots to keep their feet and overall health in top shape.

3. Theileria

You may be familiar with anemia because it’s an illness that troubles a portion of the human population, too. Theileria — which is a cattle form of anemia caused by parasite infections — afflicts livestock in similar ways.

Small parasites such as ticks feed on cattle and infect their red and white blood cells in the process. As the cattle population grows sick, they’re likely to demonstrate signs of jaundice, fever and an overall sense of lethargy — common symptoms of the earliest stages of Theileria.

Pregnant cattle and calves are at higher risk of contracting this disease because their weaker immune system makes them a particular target for ticks and other parasites. To prevent Theileria from forming, be sure to inspect your livestock regularly. Maintain your land to reduce the likelihood of ticks and invest in pesticides to control their outbreak whenever necessary.

4. Milk Fever

Milk fever refers to the metabolic issues that afflict lactating cows shortly before, during, or after calving. As the name of this illness implies, milk fever causes higher body temperatures in dairy cows due to an imbalance of calcium in the bloodstream following birth.

If milk fever appears after birth, the symptoms will usually occur within the first 72 hours after the animal is born. A cow suffering from milk fever will likely exhibit a heightened temperature or an intensified infection in the udder or digestive system.

Because this issue can increase the cow's likelihood of developing other metabolic diseases, it's vital to avoid milk fever altogether. To counteract the biological changes and fluctuating levels of potassium and calcium during birth, remember to keep any calving livestock’s access to potassium to a minimum by altering their feed. Supplement their nutrition with grass hays and dry cow diets instead.

To oversee your farm with optimal control, you have to prioritize the health and well-being of your entire surroundings — livestock included. With a knowledge of the standard cattle diseases and a few preventative measures in place, you can help your farm develop into a thriving success both you and your livestock can enjoy in peace.