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Producers should be on the lookout for fall illness

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Fall is a busy time of year. In fact, most producers are harvesting their crops, gathering their cows off the summer range and weaning their calves, so treating illness is usually the last thing on their minds. 

During an episode of Kansas State University’s (KSU) Agriculture Today podcast, dated Oct. 5, KSU Veterinarian A.J. Tarpoff explains the unique challenges fall brings to the health of the cowherd and encourages producers to be prepared to treat illnesses they may see this time of year. 

“Autumn is a unique time of year. The days aren’t as warm, and we are beginning to have cooler evenings,” states Tarpoff. “There is a lot going on, especially on a farm or ranch, but we have to keep in mind there are some ailments that will begin rearing their ugly heads in the cowherd.” 


The first health issue Tarpoff warns producers to be weary of is pinkeye. 

“Pinkeye is attributed to a bacterial infection. Most producers understand it is important to vaccinate for pinkeye early in the season, and they understand it is important to have efficient fly control,” Tarpoff says. “However, during the fall, abbrasions are the main concern in regards to pinkeye.” 

Tarpoff explains cattle may receive cuts or abbrasions in the eye while grazing tall, fibrous grasses this time of year. 

“Most of our grasses have already gone out to seed, and they are pretty tall and fibrous,” he says. “While cattle are out grazing, they can get grass cuts on the cornia of their eye, and it doesn’t take long for bacterial infections to come in and take over.” 

Because many places see a lot of wind and dust during the fall season, Tarpoff says it is important to protect the eye by gluing on a patch, after treating with an injectable antibiotic. 

If a producer runs into cases of pinkeye that don’t respond to the antibiotic, Tarpoff suggests consulting with their local veterinarian. 


Many cattle producers in the West have weaned their calves, and those who haven’t are getting ready to do so. 

“This time of year is all about stress. On top of weaning, one of the biggest cattle stressors in the fall is the weather change,” Tarpoff explains. “During this time of year, we can have anywhere from a 10 to 50 degree temperature swing within a 24-hour period, and it is extremely stressful for our calves.” 

“Keep in mind, calves are still developing their immune systems, so they are still very susceptible to disease,” he continues. “Even if we have given them a pre-weaning vaccine or vaccinations at branding, they can succumb to disease when stressed.” 

Tarpoff notes the number one culprit in weaning-age calves is bovine respiratory disease (BRD).

“If a producer notices calves getting dopey, with a runny nose or droopy ears soon after a major weather change, they need to treat them for BRD as soon as possible,” he states. 


Another ailment Tarpoff warns producers to be weary of this time of year is coccidiosis. 

“Coccidiosis is in all of our cattle operations. The cows carry it and the calves are exposed at a young age,” Tarpoff states. “Most animals seldom show clinical signs, but they can if they are under a little bit of added stress.” 

He notes weather changes and temperature swings can be the breaking point in causing animals to show clinical signs of coccidiosis. 

“Classic signs of coccidiosis are blood in the manure, a raised tail head and constant straining to defecate,” he explains. “Producers need to keep a keen eye out for these symptoms so they can administer treatment as quickly as possible.” 

As far as treatment goes, Tarpoff suggests producers consult their local veterinarian.


Lastly, Tarpoff encourages producers to be aware of anaplasmosis this time of year. 

“Late summer into early fall is the most prime anaplasmosis period,” he says, noting mature cows with anaplasmosis will be anemic and neurotic. He also notes producers may see acute death in their herds.

“Clinical signs usually show up about a month after the animal has been exposed,” he explains. “If we think back to a month ago, we had an abundance of flies and ticks. There are a lot of things our cattle could have been exposed to a month ago, so we are still in the window of seeing anaplasmosis show up.” 

Again, Tarpoff encourages producers to work with their vet when it comes to treatment, although he notes injectable oxytetracycline is the most common form of treatment.

“Recently, there has been a conditionally approved Baytril product on the market for anaplasmosis, and producers can obtain it through their local vet,” he explains. 

Tarpoff also notes, regardless of the ailment, producers should always be open to diagnostic testing deceased animals so they know if the disease will affect the rest of the herd and be prepared to combat it.

Hannah Bugas is the managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to

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