In-utero bovine viral diarrhoea virus (BVDv) infection around 90
to 130 days of gestation causes cerebellar hypoplasia (failure of
the cerebellum to develop normally). This is a common
congenital abnormality for which there is no treatment.
Cerebellar hypoplasia (failure of the cerebellum to develop
normally) is caused by in-utero bovine viral diarrhoea virus (BVDv)
Cerebellar hypoplasia is characterised by lowered head carriage,
a wide-based stance and inco-ordination, particularly of the hind
legs but with preservation of normal muscle strength.
Cerebellar hypoplasia is characterised by
lowered head carriage, a wide-based stance and
Cerebellar hypoplasia is a common congenital brain
abnormality of calves.
BVD virus can be isolated from tissue collecting at the time of
eartagging. Alternatively, characteristic histopathological changes
are found at necropsy.
There is no treatment for cerebellar hypoplasia and affected
calves should be culled because they pose a risk to susceptible
cattle in the herd as they often excrete virus for the remainder of
BVD can be controlled by effective biosecurity measures in a
herd with no infection and/or vaccination. Scotland has established
an eradication plan which is progressing well. Full and
enthusiastic participation by every farmer is essential for success
which will bring financial and herd health returns for many
Entry of bacteria via the gut, with localisation within the
membranes (meninges) around the brain, results from failure of
passive antibody transfer (poor colostrum intake) and high levels
of bacterial challenge in the calf's environment. The disease
is more common in those calves born indoors in unhygienic
The early clinical signs include failure to follow the dam, lack
of sucking behaviour, depression, star gazing and weakness. As the
disease progresses, the affected calf is blind but over-reactive to
touch and sudden noises. Seizures are seen just before death.
The early clinical signs
of meningitis include lack of suck reflex, depression
may show "head pressing" behaviour.
Calves are blind and may
show "star-gazing" behaviour.
are seen in meningitis just
Intensive intravenous antibiotic therapy is essential as soon as
possible after the onset of clinical signs.
Improved hygiene in the calving accommodation and ensuring
timely passive antibody transfer (three litres of colostrum within
two hours of birth) should prevent most neonatal infections
Clinical signs are slowly progressive and result from the
space-occupying nature of the lesion.
Depression is commonly observed with the head turned towards the
animal's chest. There may be compulsive circling but affected
cattle often stand motionless with the head pushed into a corner.
The calf is blind in the opposite eye to the abscess.
Treatment with penicillin daily for six weeks may halt
progression of the infection but the long term prognosis is very
Prevention of bacterial infections of neonatal calves
necessitates ensuring adequate passive antibody transfer and
reducing environmental bacterial challenge, by maintaining good
hygiene standards in the calving accommodation.
Middle ear infections
Infection of the middle ear usually arises from ascending
infection of the eustachian tube
The major clinical sign in vestibular disease is a 5° to 10°
head tilt down to the affected side. There may be loss
of balance, leaning and movement/circling toward the affected side.
When walking, cattle tend to drift toward the affected
may be loss of balance in vestibular disease.
The major clinical sign in vestibular disease is
a 5° to
10° head tilt down to the affected
The bacterial infection responds well to daily treatment with
44,000iu/kg procaine penicillin for seven consecutive days.
Polioencephalomalacia (PEM) syn Cerebrocortical necrosis
PEM is a sporadic condition affecting
growing cattle associated with high concentrate rations.
Affected animals are dull and may isolate themselves from others
in the group. There is high head carriage and affected cattle
may stagger. There is blindness but animals react abnormally
to sudden touch and loud noises. As the disease progresses animals
often head press into corners, and there is frequent teeth
grinding. Seizure activity is common during the later stages
Diagnosis of PEM is based primarily on the history, clinical
signs and the response to intravenous thiamine administration.
Improvement following thiamine hydrochloride given intravenously
early in the disease is usually evident within 24 hours. Full
clinical recovery may take one week.
Listeriosis occurs sporadically in cattle where most cases are
associated with feeding poorly fermented/conserved forages.
Cattle frequently have a "propulsive tendency" and may be found
with the head forced through a gate or under a feed trough or
wedged across the front of the cubicle. There is reduced appetite
over several days resulting in a gaunt appearance, marked fall in
milk production in lactating cattle and weight loss. Loss of saliva
leads to rumen impaction causing abdominal pain manifested as an
arched-back stance and frequent teeth grinding. Weakness may
also be present.
is reduced appetite over several days resulting in a gaunt
is a drooped left ear and upper eyelid and flaccid lip on the left
side of this cow's face.
There is paralysis of the cheek muscles and decreased skin
sensation on one side of the face with a drooped ear, drooped upper
eyelid and flaccid lip.
- Your veterinary surgeon will also consider:
- Vestibular lesion
- Basillar empyema
- Brain abscess
- Nervous ketosis/acetonaemia
Treatment with high doses of penicillin have been recommended
for the first day with more conventional dose rates for the next
Loss of saliva and inability to drink normally lead to
dehydration and metabolic acidosis. Care must be taken when
replacing fluids by oro-gastric tube because contraction of the
rumen caused by anorexia of some days' duration
may result in passive regurgitation of fluid around the
stomach tube (or Agger's pump).
Good fermentation is guaranteed by cutting grass at an early
growth stage (high digestibility value >72) containing a high
fermentable sugar content, wilting for 24 hours and the use of
various silage additives whether sugars or organic acids.
Compaction of the silage clamp is important to expel all air
followed by a tight seal to prevent aerobic
bacterial multiplication. Soil contamination of the silage is
reduced by rolling grass fields at the beginning of the growing
See poisons bulletin.
Basillar Empyema (Pituitary Abscess).
The condition occurs sporadically but is often associated with
the insertion of bull rings.
Localised infection,following ring insertion, spreads to
blood vessels around the pituitary gland, giving rise to basillar
The clinical signs are variable and necessitate immediate
veterinary examination and treatment. The
treatment response is good during the early stages but rapidly
worsens if there are delays in appropriate therapy.
clinical signs of basillar empyema are variable and necessitate
immediate veterinary examination and treatment.
Care/hygiene when inserting bull rings. Do not use bulldog
clips inserted into the nostrils as a deterrent to cross-sucking in
Tight bulldog clips inserted into the nostrils to deter
cross-sucking in cattle may lead to basillar empyema.
Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE)
Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), first reported in the
United Kingdom in 1987. From a peak of more than 37,000 BSE cases
per annum in 1992, there have been fewer than 20 cases since
Signs include chronic weight loss and decreased milk yield over
several weeks. Affected cattle isolate themselves and stand
with an arched back and a wide-based stance. Affected cattle become
anxious, apprehensive and over-reative to sudden movements and loud
noises. There is marked incoordination of the hind legs. Cows
have difficulty encountering obstacles such as steps, ramps and
narrow gateways. When confined in stocks, stimulation often
provokes violent kicking and bellowing. Affected cows may
show aggession towards other cattle in the group. There is
rapid progression of clinical signs and cattle may become weak and
recumbent within two to ten weeks of clinical signs first being
Cattle with BSE appear detached, isolate themselves
and stand with an arched back. (Compare the attitude of the calf
with its dam).
Compare the appearance of the cow with BSE (in the
centre) flanked by normal cows
Cows affected with BSE may show aggression towards
other cattle in the group.
- Space occupying lesions
- Lead poisoning
- Organophosphorous poisoning
- Hepatic encephalopathy.
There is no treatment.
BSE is a notifiable disease (to the local
Animal Health Office). Compulsory slaughter with destruction
of the carcase (incineration since 1991) and with compensation to
the farmer, has operated since 8th August 1988.