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SAC Warns of Increase in Blackleg Cases - Farmers Should Take Advice on Risks to Cattle from Disease

Published Monday, 13th August 2012 in Veterinary Services news

SAC vets are warning farmers about a rise in the incidence of blackleg in cattle after the disease was diagnosed recently in five of its Disease Surveillance Centres.

These DSCs (St Boswells, Ayr, Dumfries, Edinburgh and Perth) all serve veterinary practices that are in areas affected by the recent heavy rains and localised flooding. They believe the recent wet weather may have triggered the increase in cases of this fatal disease, caused by the bacterium Clostridium chauvoei.

According to Alwyn Jones, VIO at the Disease Surveillance Centre, St Boswells:

“Cattle between 6 and 24 months old are particularly susceptible to this disease.  Affected cattle are often found dead, although occasionally they may be lame and have a swollen upper limb before they die.”

The bacterium can survive in soil for several years as highly resistant spores, tough enough to withstand environmental challenges such as frost.  Once in the animal’s body, the spores are activated. The bacteria then multiply producing lethal toxins that spread throughout the body and cause rapid death of the infected animal.

Alwyn says it is not unusual to see outbreaks of Blackleg during the warmer months of the year:

“Most bacteria prefer warmth and at this time of year young stock are out to grass. Any disturbance of soil in grazing areas could expose clostridial spores and is considered to be a potent trigger factor. The difficult conditions this year, with high rainfall, have caused plenty of that. Some farms are known to be at particular risk.”

The disease can be easily prevented by vaccination. SAC is advising farmers to investigate the unexpected death of any cattle and consult their vet on the need to vaccinate young stock when out on pasture.

SAC Consulting: Veterinary Services (SACCVS) receives financial support from the Scottish Government through its Veterinary and Advisory Services programme.

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