Major Signs of Diseases in Cattle

Cattle fattening is one of the most lucrative agribusinesses, from it a farmer can earn up to 200% of the investment within a short period. However, there are some factors that tend to hinder the productivity of the venture. They are mostly diseases; to alleviate this threat, you need a comprehensive disease guide that reveals to you major signs and symptoms of diseases in cattle, a guide that tells you how to identify common and important diseases of cattle.   

Cattle rearing requires little infrastructure to facilitate its operation. It requires low labor input and easy to manage; especially when you are rearing under free range or extensive system of rearing, where the cattle are made to graze themselves. They have the choice to select the type of grass they want. This eliminates the cost of feeding and greatly increases profit.

Diseases are a major menace in animal production; it can reduce the profit or returns of investment to a ridiculous and incredible amount if not well managed. However, there are many clinical signs a farmer should watch out for before the animals are pinned down with the disease.

Regular observations

To detect health problems in cattle; it is imperative you observe the cattle frequently for any change in attitude or behavioral pattern, several times per day. This can be combined with observations for heat detection to increase your flock. When observing the cattle, check the following:

  • Behaviour: Does it react normally to its environment and in the group or is it acting strangely or trying to isolate itself?
  • Attitude: Does it carry its head, ears, body and tail as usual or they are wrongly placed? 
  • Does it walk normally or staggering? 
  • Condition: is the animal in good condition; is it well-muscled, neither too thin nor too fat?
  • Does it eat, drink and ruminate properly or lack appetite?
  • Does it urinate and defecate normally?
  • If a cow is milked, is the milk normal and is there any sudden drop in production? Any other abnormal signs?

General examination

Be very careful with sick animals and pay attention to hygiene while examining the following aspects:

  • Breathing frequency:  A breathing frequency (breathing in + breathing out) of 10 to 30 times per minute is normal in adult cattle. In calves, 30 to 50 breaths per minute are normal. Breathing can be best observed by placing your hand closely in the nose of the cattle and make your count.       
  •  Pulse or heartbeat: The normal rate per minute is 50 to 80 pulse beats in adult cattle, 80 to 110 in animals between 2 months and 1 year of age and 100 to 130 in younger animals. The pulse should be regular. The pulse can be best felt at the cattle’s thigh; place your hand in between the cattle’s thigh and take your reading.                                
  • Chewing the cud (rumination): Healthy cattle regurgitate a ball of food (cud) from their rumen stomach and start chewing it. This is called ruminating. If the cow chews the cud less than 40 times per minute, there might be a problem. Rumen activity can be felt by pressing lightly with the fist on the upper part of the left flank. The movement of the expanding rumen can be felt; normal frequency is 2 to 3 times per minute.               
  • Body temperature: Adult cattle have a normal body temperature of between 38 – 39oc and calves up to 1 year 38.5 – 40.5oc. A higher temperature does not necessarily mean fever. Fever is usually accompanied by shivering, rapid breathing and an increased pulse rate, and possibly, diarrhoea. Often the ears, horns and legs of the animal are cold to the touch while the body is too warm. Check the temperature of the animal by inserting a thermometer into the anus for one minute; for calves, insert the thermometer one third of its length, and two thirds for adults.                                           
  • Coat, skin, hooves and horns: A healthy animal has a shining, smooth and even coat, as well as shiny horns and hooves. Its eyes should be normal, without any discharge or tears, and the muzzle moist. 

Health problems in cattle are caused by:

  • Infections from internal or external parasites like worms and ticks, or microorganisms; such as protozoa, bacteria, rickettsia, viruses and fungi.
  • Nutritional deficiencies of energy, protein, minerals or vitamins.
  • Digestive disturbances due to improper feeding or lack of water. 
  • Being too fat at calving.
  • Genetics: the animal may inherit abnormalities from its parents. Accidents and predators.

These are what you should observe and try to control in your flock. Cattle cannot talk when they are ill, you have to observe and detect the illness, treat with necessary medication. Also, supply your flock with vitamins and minerals to boost their immune system and keep them healthy always.

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