Pinkeye… It’s Pink Right?

Pink Eye… It’s Pink Right?

Pink eye can be one of the quickest spreading infections around a cattle farm.  Some will argue that other infections are just as bad, but pink eye is often overlooked.. Pink eye, or in scientific terms, Infectious Bovine Keratoconjunctivitus, is spread around from animal to animal by what farmers call the “common face fly”.  These little pesky insects are one of the most irritable insects on a cattle farm. Some would even say that they are worse than wasps.  This is because there are so many of them, millions!

Growing up on a cattle farm, I have never really had a huge problem with my herds having pink eye or becoming blind from it in the past.  In 2015, that changed completely.  We had just worked a group of cattle, and vaccinated them with their normal vaccines, including one for the Moraxella Bovis strand of pink eye.  This virus is the common disease causing strand that causes outbreaks in most farmer’s herds, especially here in Southern Illinois. Four weeks after the vaccinations, they came in for a booster of a few of their vaccines, including their pink eye vaccine.  Everything seemed to look fine as far as not having an infectious state in any of the eyes.  Luckily, I have the luxury of having a Grandpa that is a veterinarian. He always seems pretty confident in the outcome of things as far as keeping sickness and infections down.  It wouldn’t be his fault if we had an outbreak anyway.

Did I mention that we have bad luck?  It may seem that we do not, but let me explain:  A few weeks after the calves got their last booster, we started to see odd symptoms appearing in their eyes.  Through a closer examination, runny eyes, a sudden white area on the eye with a “pen hole” like area in the middle of the eye, and a little red outline appeared. We were all puzzled.  Then we started noticing more and more calves becoming infected.  At this time, my family became alarmed and brought a few calves in to swab their eyes, and sent the swabs to the lab.  A few weeks after the culture had been successfully read at the lab, they faxed the results to the clinic that I work at.  The results were positive for Moraxella Bovoculi, another strand that is not common in the area that our farm is located.  With that being said, infections were now spreading and progressing in the calves, as well as some of the mature cows. We then opted to order an autogenous vaccine specifically with the strand acquired by our cattle herd.  It was to be used along-side the Moraxella Bovis vaccine, to help lessen the chances of spreading further.  The company recommended we vaccinate again with this autogenous vaccine to help lessen the spread well as use Oxytetracycline, as the treatable antibiotic if needed.  We stopped most of the infection in its tracks, but a select few still had their bad luck and did not heal.  They became blind.  The ones that did come out of it had permanent scars on the surface of the eye.  We have learned the importance of vaccinating your cattle herd with the correct form of pink eye vaccine and would recommend to any cattleman that has pink eye problems to have eye swabs done on their infected ones.  It is very expensive to have the test done and to have a specific autogenous vaccine made up for your herd, but it is worth it in the end.

-Matthew Meller

Hillcroft Angus Cattle

Meller-James and Associates Veterinary Service


Both photos are from

Moraxella Bovis (Rod Shaped)                           Moraxella Bovoculi


Below is a common picture of the pink eye infection:(


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