Clostridial Disease in Cattle

It’s been noted recently by many of the vets that very few of our cattle clients are using vaccines against Clostridial disease. A much lower proportion of cattle farms seem to be using it compared to the sheep farms, even though there is similar risk between species, with it probably being our most common diagnosis for sudden death in cattle.

One of my most horrible vet moments was walking round a field of cows and calves, where the calves had dug up a small 2 x 2m patch of soil and had obviously ingested some. Two were already dead. Four more were neurological and stumbling around the field, I attempted treatment, but three more of those would later die. Seeing cows bellowing at their young to get up was a really awful and harrowing experience.

For those that aren’t aware, Clostridial disease is caused by a family of very hardy bacteria, that may contaminate pasture for years. The main source of Clostridia are their spores in soil and regional differences in husbandry practices can affect incidence of disease. The organisms are highly infectious from the soil but not contagious. After replication in the target organ, disease is often characterised by sudden death.

The factors that influence disease occurrence depend on the species of clostridia involved. They may be ingested with feed and water and consequently healthy robust animals are often the first victims. The organisms are often present in organs or tissues of healthy animals and become pathogenic only after primary factors cause changes in habitat or a trigger. Examples of such primary factors include accidental injury, husbandry procedures, fighting, liver fluke infestation, overeating (too much starch) etc.

Some of the more common syndromes you may have heard of are: Blackleg, Tetanus, Botulism, Blacks disease, Braxy, Gas Gangrene. Of which there are many more. 

The response to antibiotic treatment is very poor, even if the animal is found alive, so as a practice, Larkmead would definitely recommend all cattle and sheep clients to vaccinate, especially as the vaccine works out to be less than one pound per dose. 

If you’d like to talk about Clostridial disease with one of the team, please give us a call on 01491 651479.