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Blackleg disease kills 2 Arkansas cows

7/19/2013 at 12:00 a.m.

Blackleg disease, a bacterial infection that often occurs during drought, has claimed cattle in Lonoke and Sebastian counties.

The causes of death were confirmed by the Arkansas Livestock & Poultry Commission.

“With the dry conditions and the short supplies of forages, cattle are grazing closer to the ground,” said Tom Troxel, livestock expert with the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture. “When this occurs, it is common for cattle to ingest small soil particles that may contain the blackleg bacterium. The disease is easily and inexpensively prevented by a vaccine.”

Blackleg usually affects young cattle between six months and two years of age, but it’s not unusual for adult cattle to die from the infection.

“The bacteria can cause severe lameness, depression and fever, but the most common symptom is sudden death,” Troxel said. “Other outbreaks of blackleg have occurred following soil excavations, which suggests that disturbances to the ground may expose and activate blackleg bacterium.”

The vaccine costs around 70-80 cents per dose. Some applications require two vaccinations, 4 to 6 weeks apart, to be effective.

”If you compare the cost of the vaccination to the value of a calf — $650 to $750 — it makes perfect sense to vaccinate all calves,” he said. “The loss of one calf valued at $700 would pay for 1,000 does of blackleg vaccine.”

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