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■ Hairy Heel Warts Hairy heel warts is a disease affecting the feet of cattle. It has become increasingly more common among cattle attending fairs. The disease usually starts as an extremely painful, rough and raised area on the skin at the back of the feet, most often the rear feet. Cattle infected are often very sore and stand on their heels.
Treatment: Antibiotic sprays, like Terramycin, Lincomix and Oxytetracycline, sprayed directly on the lesion has offered excellent control. This should be done in conjunction with your veterinarian.
Prevention: Cattle housed with or near dairy herds with this disease are most likely to become infected.
■ Hardware Disease Hardware disease is caused when a steer ingests a relatively heavy and sharp object. The object falls to the floor of the rumen and is pushed forward into the reticulum.
Typical symptoms of this disease are pain and loss of appetite. The animal may stand with an arched back or be reluctant to walk. Often you can hear a “grunt” when the animal is forced to walk. Symptoms and seriousness varies depending on whether or where the item penetrates the wall of the reticulum.
Treatment: Since many other diseases can exhibit the same symptoms, it is difficult to be 100 percent sure of a diagnosis. X-rays and metal detectors may be used to diagnose, but these methods are not always effective either.
Prevention: Prevention of hardware disease in cattle revolves around managing animal feed and animal areas so they avoid ingestion of heavy sharp objects. Keep your pastures and any areas your steers are housed in free of dangerous objects. Barbed wire fencing, staples and roofing nails are often incriminated in hardware disease cases.
Another preventative practice is to place a magnet in the animal’s forestomach with the hope that it ends up in the reticulum. The bar magnet will attract metal objects to the bottom of the stomach, hopefully preventing the object from penetrating the reticular wall.
13 External Parasites ■ Lice Two types of lice afflict cattle: biting and sucking.
Either way, they are a nuisance and quite irritating to the steers.
Sign and Symptoms: As lice feed on the blood of your steer, the animal will rub against poles, sides of the barn or you in order to relieve the itching.
This can result in hair loss and open sores, which is not only unsightly, but also painful. Severe infestations will produce bare patches of skin with a bluish color. Steers may go off feed and their growth may be stunted if not treated immediately. Lice are spread from one animal to another by physical contact. Lice can occur year round, Delousing a steer but are most common in winter months when animals are kept indoors in close quarters.
Treatment: There are several methods that may be used to help control lice infestations. Dustings are most common and inexpensive, but there are also drenches and injectable medications (such as Ivomec) available. Contact your veterinarian for more information.
Prevention: Sprays or delousing powders can also be used in preventative measures.
■ Mites Signs and Symptoms: Mites produce many of the same symptoms as lice. However, while lice bite the surface of the skin, mites are a microscopic parasite that burrows into the skin. This is severely irritating to cattle and causes intense itching. Red, blistering skin may result, in addition to fierce scratching and hair loss. Mites are also spread through physical contact.
Treatment: Mites are best controlled by injectables such as Ivomec, drenches, and other forms of insecticides. Consult your veterinarian for more information.
Prevention: Sprays may be used as well as dips.
■ Flies Flies are a fact of the barnyard. However, proper sanitation, manure handling and management will reduce fly numbers.
Signs and symptoms: Most flies associated with cattle are biting flies, and your steers will show agitation and discomfort when the flies bite them. Tail swishing and skin twitching are natural defenses that aid in the removal of flies from the skin.
Treatment: Severe fly problems can be pacified with sprays, pour-ons, or dusting.
Prevention: Sanitation is the first and most important step in any fly control program.
Insecticides will not be effective as long as breeding sites are available. Manure, wet straw and decaying feed are all attractive breeding grounds for most flies. By removing these items from the barn yard at least once a week, you will break up the breeding cycle of flies and reduce populations considerably.
14 Fly spray is useful and sometimes necessary, especially when working your team of working steers. During fly season, you may want to protect your cattle by applying a coat of fly spray or wipe as needed. Pay special attention to sensitive areas such as the eyes and ears. For ears that are especially sensitive to bites, you may want to smear a coat of Vaseline petroleum jelly on the inside ear (do not push into eardrum). This prevents flies from reaching the skin.
■ Ticks Ticks are becoming a nuisance in many areas around the United States. Your steers can pick up ticks in tall grasses when out on pasture.
Signs and Symptoms: Ticks will latch on to your animals’ skin with their mouth parts and suck blood continuously until full. When they have their fill, they will drop off. They can be felt under the skin as small lumps when filling with blood.
Treatment: Pulling ticks out of the skin must be done carefully. Pull slowly and downward so as to remove all of the ticks head and mouthparts. Any tick remaining in the skin could cause an infection.
Prevention: Before turning your steers out to pasture be sure to apply fly and tick spray or wipe to prevent ticks from being attracted to your steers.
Parasites When eating, your steers may inadvertently ingest any number of internal parasites. Depending on the immunity of the steer, he may be able to ward off illness caused by the parasite, or he may become ill. The following are some internal parasites common to working steers.
■ Roundworms Roundworms live in the fourth stomach compartment (abomasum) and part of the small intestine. Adult worms suck blood through the gut lining, which may cause holes and fluid leakage into the gut. Eggs laid by adults are expelled in manure and once hatched, larvae climb on blades of grass. Cattle ingest the larvae when grazing, causing a never-ending cycle.
Signs and Symptoms: Infected animals may become dehydrated, have dramatic weight loss and loss of appetite and or develop a swelling of the jaw (called bottle jaw).
Treatment: Administration of drugs such as ivermectin, fenbendazole, albendazole or levamisole may be helpful in treating affected animals. Contact your veterinarian for more information.
Prevention: Use a deworming program appropriate for your area (usually deworming occurs in spring and fall for calves at 200 lbs.) Consult with other cattle owners in your area, your 4-H leader or veterinarian to develop a comprehensive worming program. Rotate your cattle to pasture where cattle have not grazed for at least a month to prevent re-infestation.
■ Flatworms Tapeworms are the most common flatworm parasite in cattle. They are transmitted by grass mites that have fed on tapeworm eggs in cow feces. Tapeworms live in the small intestine and absorb nutrients that would otherwise benefit the steer. As tapeworms grow, segments of their body break off and can be observed in the feces as small white fragments (they look like wiggling grains of rice). Tapeworms are not often a disease-causing parasite, but may weaken the immune system to allow secondary diseases.
■ Coccidiosis Coccidiosis is a disease caused by one-celled protozoan parasites called coccidia. Calves are most susceptible to this disease, as older animals usually develop immunity.
Signs and Symptoms: Coccidia live in the small and large intestines and cause bloody diarrhea in the animal. Coccidiosis is more likely to occur when the animal is under some sort of stress (such as weaning, heat or overcrowding) and is easily spread animal to animal through ingested fecal matter.
Treatment: Although coccidiosis should be treated before signs of the disease are seen in the animal, measures should be taken to ensure the animal does not contract secondary diseases.
Prevention: Isolate infected animals to prevent spreading to other animals. Keep calf areas clean, dry and stress free.
■ Ringworm Ringworm is a fungus that infects the skin.
Signs and Symptoms: Ringworm works it’s way into the hair follicles and causes the hair to fall out. This produces bare patches of skin, generally in circular (“ring”) formations, but can be of other shapes and many sizes. Ringworm often occurs on the face and neck, although any body part is susceptible.
Treatment: Use of an anti-fungal applied to the affected area may accelerate recovery, but usually, the course of the fungus is untreatable.
Prevention: Because ringworm can be passed through direct or indirect physical contact of steers and you (always wash your hands thoroughly after touching ringworm-infected cattle as humans can get ringworm). It may be helpful to isolate infected animals. Once your steers have had ringworm, they are not likely to get it again.
Ringworm is highly contagious so don’t share halters, brushes or other equipment with fellow teamsters. If your animals have ringworm, they must not be taken to a fair or show.
16 Other Diseases ■ Warts Warts are a viral disease which cause unsightly bumps and masses on the surface of you steer’s skin.
Signs and Symptoms: Bumps and masses commonly found on the face and neck, but can occur anywhere on the body.
Treatment: Cutting off warts is a common practice, though this does not ensure the warts will not grow back. Most animals will have a few warts when they are young at some time, but once infected they are rarely re-infected.
Prevention: Isolate infected animals. Vaccinate for warts.
■ Calf Scours Calf scours, or enteritis, is a very infectious bacterial disease, commonly caused by Escherichia coli (E. coli), although it can also be caused by viruses such as the Rota viruses and Corona viruses.
Sign and Symptoms: Calves afflicted with calf scours exhibit diarrhea, loss of appetite, weight loss, and dehydration. Calves in this condition need treatment. Call your veterinarian immediately if your calf does not respond to treatment.
Treatment: Electrolytes should be administered along with antibiotics. Water should be available at all times.
Prevention: Isolate infected calves. Ensure the calves you purchase have received adequate amounts of colostrum. It is a good idea to vaccinate your calves for E. coli, but this will not prevent all types of calf scours.
■ Respiratory Viruses Respiratory ailments such as Bovine Virus Diarrhea (BVD), Infectious Bovine Rhinotracheitis (IBR), Bovine Respiratory Syncytial Virus (BRSV), and PI3, can cause severe problems for your steers.
Signs and Symptoms: Calves with respiratory diseases generally exhibit red and runny noses, fever, coughing, weight loss, and diarrhea.
Treatment: Consult your veterinarian for treatment.
Prevention: Vaccination with a killed virus for these diseases is cheap and effective. Also, provide your steers with a clean, dry and stress free environment. It is highly recommended to vaccinate steers before the fair season.
Ensure the safety of others Before you take your steers to a show or any place there are other cattle, make sure your animals are not ill or carrying infectious diseases. To prevent passing contagious diseases, do not share buckets with other animals at fairs. Check with state and fair health regulations to make sure your animals have all the vaccinations necessary for admission. Always remember that the supervisor or local attendant of the show has the authority to reject an animal that appears unhealthy or doesn’t have proper health certificates.
17 Management Castration At one point or another, it will be necessary to castrate your team. Castration is necessary to ensure the safety of the teamster, as well as the animals, as bulls can become quite aggressive.
Castration is a relatively simple surgical procedure that removes the testicles or prevents them from functioning. After a bull (intact male) is castrated, it is called a steer.
Castration can be performed as young as one day old, but is usually done between six months and one year. This will give your team enough time to establish bullish characteristics (such as a wider head and stronger horns) before becoming aggressive.
One of three methods may be used for castration, but all should be performed with ample time to heal before any shows/fairs and preferably not during fly season.
A qualified veterinarian may use:
• Elastration – where a rubber band constricts the scrotal sac and causes the entire scrotum to be removed. However, this must be done between one and two months of age. It is also a slow process that is not entirely credible for actual castration.
• Crushing – where the cords are crushed to prevent maturing of sperm, but the testes are not removed. There is the possibility of missing a cord and resulting in an incomplete castration.
• Surgical Removal – where the testes are removed. This ensures complete castration.
Foot care Proper hoof care can begin when calves are young. By picking up the hoof and leg of your calves, you can get them used to this sort of handling. This will make it easier for any hoof or leg care when the animals are larger.
To pick up a front hoof, stand facing your steer, bend down and squeeze the dew claws together while cupping the front side of the hoof. Pull the leg up as the knee folds. Hold the hoof securely and be careful not to place the hoof on your own foot when you let him go. For back hooves, stand in the same position, but when you pull up on the hoof, do not try and pull the leg outward, as this may cause the steer to feel unsteady and fall. Instead, pull straight up and work from there.
Trimming hooves can be a difficult and challenging experience for the young teamster, and may not be necessary. Teamsters who exercise their steers daily may find that the hooves remain well worn on their own.
The ideal hoof has short toes and high heels, which causes the animal to walk properly on his toes and therefore keep them trim during regular workouts.