Blackleg Kills

It happened again, I autopsied a dead calf weighing over 500# and worth approximately $600.00. When a diagnosis of blackleg was made the producer made two statements I have grown accustomed to hearing:

1. "I have never had a case of blackleg on my place."

2. "I didn't know that blackleg was around this time of year."

Through examinations or autopsies we diagnose clostridial infections (blackleg) year around. The range in ages will run from 2 weeks to over 7 years old. This great range in age of cattle being affected is due to the many different types of clostridial organisms found in the environment. All of these types will survive in the soil for may years and intake of foodstuff that has this contaminated soil will result in an animal with some form of blackleg.

What are the most common signs of clostridial infections?

1. Very young calves: Diarrhea with or without blood or sudden death.

2. Older calves up to 2 years of age: Most commonly we see limping, fever, swollen muscles, air under skin or sudden death.

3. Older cows: Symptoms are those of pneumonia, heart failure and occasionally muscle involvement or sudden death.

What preventive measures should you take?

1. Vaccinate all calves two times a year until they are 18 months of age. This is usually done fall and spring in conjunction with normal processing times.

2. Vaccinate all beef cows when their calves are weaned and all dairy cows when they are dried off. Doing this will protect the very young calf as well as the cow.

What type of vaccine should you use?

We use the same vaccine on cows and calves. This is an 8 way clostridial which gives the maximum protection available. Remember that blackleg is always in the area and can hit in one form or another virtually any age of animal.