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Eye Witness


I feel like there has been a dirty little secret kept, something that effects livestock health but is rarely talked about.

Maybe it's because it's so common that is it brushed off as common sense? Maybe it's because I didn't grow up as a livestock farmer? Or maybe it's because there is no good way to get rid of it once it affects your herd...



Pink Eye. These two words make me shudder now.

We raise bison because they are hardy animals, so imagine my surprise when I started to see a few of them with milky white eyes. The milkiness quickly turned into zombie white and I knew something was wrong, very wrong.

I thumbed through my text of The Bison Producers Handbook...nothing. I pulled out my Field Guide to Bison Diseases...limited information. I texted vigorously with a mentor of mine and our vet. Pink Eye.

How the heck do I treat that in bison?? My mentor runs his animals through the chute system and puts penicillin under the eye lid. Unfortunately, we are not quite set up to be efficient with sending select animals (and their one month old calves mind you) through our chute system; we lack the manpower (more on that in another post of learning nuggets!) and we are in the process of making corral improvements.


Penicillin under the eyelid - not happening. The vet had another idea: dart those with the infection with the Draxxin antibiotic - I jumped on this idea.

We bought a dart gun and proceeded with the treatment, which now included a couple calves. The gun worked like a charm and was very low stress for the animals. One win.

Unfortunately, there are a couple animals who's eye infection was already so progressed that their eyes have stayed zombie white: one heifer and one male calf. These two animals are blind in their affected eye. The heifer's eye looks to be on the point of rupture there is so much pus collected under the lens. The male calf must tilt his head when you approach him in order to see you squarely. The calve may regain some sight, but the heifer will most likely stay completely blind. This will pose issues in the chute system when it comes time to vet them.

Interestingly enough, both animals still frolic around like nothing has happened - no doubt a testament to their true hardiness. The heifer is still one of the top females within the herd. The calf is large and boisterous.

Flies are thought to be the culprit of this type of outbreak. And in my gusto to limit insecticides from our operation, we ended up falling behind the huge outbreak of flies that came with the hot weather this July. Figures. I learned a hard lesson this time around, one that will affect my animals now for the rest of their lives.

We are now spraying our animals with permethrin and soaking robes, rubs, and tires in it. This chemical seems to work quite well. We went from almost 100 flies per animal to around 10! We also have a number of fly traps placed near the waterers, which is also working quite well. We re-bait these traps biweekly.

Medicine and chemicals are wonderful things. I am so glad we have these options for treatment. However, as a nurse with over 12 years of experience at the bedside, prevention is ALWAYS the best medicine! This is true for animals, as well as for humans.

Can't believe I am saying this but....I CANNOT WAIT for COLD weather!! No flies.




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