Diseases that Can Affect Cattle

Understanding Diseases Carried by Cattle Flies

If you raise cattle, you are probably familiar with the warning that you must keep flies away from your herd as best you can. There are plenty of reasons, but one of the most prominent is that doing so helps prevent fly-borne disease outbreaks among your herd.

Flies can carry many diseases that could affect your cattle. When diseases spread, your ability to raise a healthy, productive, profitable herd may drop. The good news is that many fly prevention techniques are available, including Champion Animal Health’s JustiFLYⓇ feedthrough products. Still, it helps to know the diseases for which you need to be on the lookout so that you can take action should an outbreak occur.

Common Fly-Borne Threats to Cattle

Flies will often find ideal breeding areas around your cattle, given the copious amounts of organic material (aka, manure) the cattle produce. And as flies gather and begin to multiply, the risk of disease outbreaks among your herd likewise increases.

Various fly species can prey on cattle, and each can carry diseases. For example, The University of Nebraska - Lincoln states that the house fly alone is capable of transmitting at least 65 types of human and animal diseases, including:

  • Anthrax
  • Typhoid fever 
  • Amoebic dysentery 
  • Tuberculosis 
  • Cholera 
  • Newcastle disease
  • Salmonella

These conditions alone should cause you ample concern. Still, American CattlementⓇ points out a few other bovine diseases to which you should pay particular attention. These include:

  • Pinkeye: Because it is often relatively easily treated in humans, it is easy to forget that pinkeye is a debilitating bacterial illness. It can cause extreme irritation and inflammation in and around the eyes, and severe cases can cause blindness. Face flies spread the bacteria that causes pinkeye when they feed on the secretions around cows’ eyes, noses and mouths. Unfortunately, face flies don’t stay on any one animal for long, preferring to jump between cattle. As a result, pinkeye outbreaks can spread rapidly among your herd.
  • Beef Heifer Mastitis: Spread primarily through the blood-sucking bite of the horn fly—and a single horn fly can suck blood up to 40 times per day—the bacteria that causes mastitis eventually attacks and destroys a heifer’s milk-producing tissue. This leads to the presence of blind quarters on the heifers. As a result, your milk yields may drop, and you may also experience lower weaning weights among calves.
  • Bovine Respiratory Disease (BRD): Also known as shipping fever, BRD affects a cow's upper and lower respiratory tracts. Notably, it is responsible for approximately 75% of illnesses and 70% of all deaths in feedlots. BRD is commonly linked to environmental stressors, such as shipping, crowding and changes in diet, all of which may cause immune suppression among cattle. However, research indicates that cattle flies may also help spread this disease among cattle.

      Additionally, one disease that you should be very careful to look out for among your cattle is Anaplasmosis. According to Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory, this blood-borne parasite can be spread by various types of flies, notably tabanids (horse flies). It is very serious, given that it can invade the red blood cells of infected cattle. The cattle’s spleens then destroy the infected cells, which can cause animals to become anemic, lethargic and malnourished. It significantly increases a cow’s risk of death and requires antibiotics to treat.

      The Economic Impacts of Fly-Related Cattle Illnesses

      When flies abound around your cattle, disease outbreaks are just one of the many problems they may cause. Flies are distractions to cattle; they may cause cattle to experience stress and waste energy as they focus on combatting flies. Because of these stressors, cattle may lose weight, experience lethargy and be more susceptible to illness (just like humans are when stressed). 

      Any of these problems, alone, may make your cattle less marketable. Once illness enters the mix, the extra money spent on treatments and long-term health effects can severely curtail your ability to profit from your herd. That said, it is much easier to assume that fly-related problems are too expensive for you not to tackle flies as effectively as you can. It’s much easier to take a pre-emptive approach by implementing a solid fly control plan.

      Establishing Strong Fly Controls

      A strong fly control program can significantly reduce the fly population around your cattle, reducing the risk of disease and other fly-related problems.

      One of the most efficient ways to implement fly control is to use a feedthrough product such as JustiFLY. Feedthroughs target flies where they thrive---in the cattle’s manure. To use, all you have to do is incorporate the feedthrough mineral into your cattle’s usual feeding routine. The cattle ingest the feedthrough (at no risk to themselves), which is later deposited in their manure. When flies lay eggs in the waste, the JustiFLY breaks the development cycle of the larvae, making it impossible for this new generation of flies to survive.

      If you suspect an illness outbreak among your herd, consult a veterinarian who can advise you on the best remediation course. Still, if you already have considerable fly control efforts in place, you can feel confident that you are doing what you can to keep them healthy. So, make it your plan to start this process now, and let JustiFLY feedthrough products be your ideal solution.