Pinkeye is one of the leading causes of low weight gain in calves. Once present, the pinkeye bacteria can quickly spread throughout the herd, causing significant overall cost through treatment and lower rates of gain. Although 100% prevention is probably not possible, vaccines and good management practices can minimize the impact of pinkeye.
Commonly, pinkeye in cattle is caused by the gram-negative bacteria Moraxella bovis, which infects the eye’s surface. The hair-like structures of the bacteria, called pili, attach to the cornea of the eye and then colonize. This causes inflammation of the eye and eyelid, leading to ulcers, pain, swelling, and blindness if not treated. Studies have shown significantly lower weight gain in affected animals and lower market value in animals showing signs of pinkeye. The bacteria are primarily spread by face flies and direct contact between animals. Environmental factors such as UV light, dust, tall grass and seed heads can irritate the eye, facilitating the bacteria’s attachment. Clipping pastures (brome, fescue, etc.) when seed heads appear can prove beneficial. Vaccines, fly prevention, proper nutrition and pasture management are key to preventing an outbreak.
Vaccines are the first step in pinkeye prevention. Several brands are available, including 7-way blackleg combinations and a vaccine implant.
Alpha 7/MB-1 is a popular combination blackleg/pinkeye vaccine that is labeled to use in calves at 2 months of age with a booster at weaning. For calves at least 3 months of age, no booster is required. Mature cattle may have injection site swelling with this product, so it is best used in calves.
Several brands of M. bovis vaccines are available and labeled to use as a single dose. The best practice is to vaccinate 3 to 6 weeks prior to the onset of pinkeye season (fly season). SolidBac Pinkeye is a vaccine implant that has an immediate release antigen and a timed release antigen, which has the effect of providing a booster. Although more expensive, it may help prevent the M. bovis in higher risk situations.
When a pinkeye outbreak occurs in spite of vaccinating with M. bovis, it is often caused by Moraxella bovoculi bacteria, which is not prevented by the M. bovis vaccines. A conditionally licensed M. bovoculi vaccine is now available, but requires a veterinarian’s prescription to purchase. It is typically used in addition to a M. bovis vaccine.
Endovac is a vaccine that targets gram-negative bacteria in general and has proven effective in preventing both M. bovis and M. bovoculi pinkeye.
It is important to have a vaccination program in place to protect your herd, so consult your veterinarian or give us a call and talk to one of our veterinarians for product information. 1-800-468-0059
Look for more information on Pinkeye Prevention with Key #2 – Fly Control