The Udder Side of the Story
In this article, I thought I would add a few more species in and cover a broader range. I am only going to cover one disease or family of bacterial agents, though. Let’s talk about the Clostridia family of bacteria. A species of this family of bacteria can affect any and all species of mammals. One of the most common species I see in my practice is Clostridium Perfringens type B, C or D. In regular language that we can all understand, let’s call it Overeaters or Gut Form Blackleg.
Overeaters is a common disease of sheep and goats. The reason it is called overeaters is because starch sets this disease off. So, normally it happens to the biggest and best doing lamb or kid eating grain. You can actually see them running to the feed bunk in the morning and eating and playing. Then come back that night and find them with four feet in the air.
Now this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t feed grain to your sheep and goats, but it does mean you need to watch their consumption. And we do have vaccines for this. The main name of this vaccination is C, D & T. All sheep and goats need this vaccine twice after three months of age given at two to four weeks apart. Then I recommend boosters every six months for the rest of their life. The ewes and does should be given a booster within 30 days prior to lambing and/or kidding. This will insure that we have a high level of antibodies in the colostrum for the new born to get their initial immunity. This colostral immunity will last for two to four weeks. At two weeks of age I recommend the newborn to have their first C, D & T. Then at three months we start with two doses given at two to four weeks apart. Heavy lambs being pushed for the fair and finishing can have a booster every three to four months.
Now back to cattle and good ‘ole Gut Form Blackleg. I have diagnosed several cases this spring and winter. In the last six or seven years I have been running Gram stains on baby calf scours. I have only seen one case of E. coli calf scours in that time. All of the rest of them have been Gut Form Blackleg. Most of them I save, but not all. Previously in this article I mentioned that starch sets this disease off. Well, mother’s milk has starch and fat in it. In about a week to three momma is milking up a storm and here we go.
The clinical signs of this disease can also be the same in cattle, running and bucking in the morning and four feet in the air by evening. But, also due to varying degrees of partial immunity you can also see other clinical signs such as, colic, scours, weak and lethargic. There are vaccines to prevent this, it’s called seven-way blackleg. And we need to get those cows vaccinated. The vaccination will booster her immunity to make better colostral antibodies to give the calf immediately after birth. Most blackleg vaccines will work in calves at two weeks of age, but we do have one that will work the day they are born.
Dr. Tim O'Neill owns Country Veterinary Clinic in Farmington, Ark.