Prevention Is Key for Common Cattle Ailments

No matter how closely ranchers monitor their herds, their cattle will take ill at some point. Here are a few common cattle conditions and the early signs that ranchers can watch for to ensure timely intervention. 


Bloat is a buildup of gas in a cow’s digestive system. While this may not sound too serious, it could mean the death of the animal within an hour due to restricted breathing and heart failure. Bloat is typically caused by grazing lush, low-fiber forage (such as immature legume pastures like alfalfa or clover), especially when covered in morning dew. Feeding cattle on hay or feed before allowing them to graze in particularly lush fields can help prevent bloat. Warning signs include a distended rumen (particularly on the left side), frequent excretion, bellowing, and staggering. If you see these signs, force the animal to walk to induce belching. Dose with mineral or vegetable oil to break up foamy bubbles, or your vet may need to use a trocar as a last resort. 


Pink eye, or Infectious bovine keratoconjunctivitis (IBK), is one of the most common diseases in beef cattle. This contagious infection spreads from animal to animal, often by flies or tall grasses that rub the eyes. In the early stages, look for tearing and light sensitivity; as the infection progresses, the animal will tend to eat less and seek shade more. You may also see a small white spot in the center of the cornea, while the rest of the eye may appear cloudy. Preventive steps ranchers can take include controlling flies, keeping grasses shorter than eye level, and isolating new animals for a few weeks, as some animals may carry the infection without showing symptoms. 


Scours is diarrhea caused by viruses, parasites, or bacteria, most common in young calves. Scours is most common within the first 15 days of life. The loss of both water and electrolytes can cause weight loss, depression, and weakness, which may cause a calf to become too weak to nurse. Without treatment, calves can die in as little as 24 hours. If a calf develops scours, isolate that calf and administer replacement fluids and electrolytes. Preventive measures include keeping vaccinations up to date and keeping calving areas clean.

This article is sponsored by Labor Solutions, and the opinions expressed herein may not reflect those of Central Florida Ag News or of its advertisers.

BIO: Baxter Troutman is founder and chief executive officer of Labor Solutions, a staffing company with offices in Bartow, Winter Haven, Lake Wales, Arcadia, and Plant City. You also can visit his Dark Hammock Legacy Ranch online at A cattle rancher and citrus grower who served in the Florida House of Representatives, Troutman understands the challenges and concerns of today’s farmer.

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