Blackleg is a fatal disease mostly of young cattle that affects the animal in a very severe manner. When calves eat, the bacterium enter the body. These bacterium make small punctures in the mucous membrane of the digestive tract, affect the muscles and spread a poison which ultimately ends up killing the calf.
Symptoms of blackleg include rapid breathing, sudden onset of fever, depression and loss of appetite. If the affected muscles are in the leg, the cow will become lame and the leg may be swollen, hot and painful in the affected area. The most common sites of infection are the limb muscles, although muscles anywhere in the body can also be involved. A crackling sound may be heard when the infected area is pressed, due to gas formation in the tissue.
Young cattle between 6 to 18 months old in good condition are mostly affected; however, younger calves, and occasionally, older cattle can also become infected. Unfortunately, very few affected animals survive blackleg as death usually occurs within 48 hours of symptoms presenting.
Blackleg is almost entirely preventable by a vaccine usually administered at 60 to 90 days of age or when calves are first processed. In areas with a high disease incidence, such as ours, additional vaccinations may be warranted.
Blackleg will remain a continual threat to the calf crop if a good preventive protocol is not followed. Contact us if you have any questions concerning blackleg in your herd.