Cattle production: Dealing with lumpy skin disease

Question: What causes lumpy skin disease, what are its consequences and what can be done to prevent it?

Lumpy skin is a viral disease caused by a pox virus (Poxviridae – Neethling strain) and can be acute, sub-acute or sub-clinical.

All breeds of cattle are susceptible, but the clinical signs are most prominent in imported breeds such as Frieslands and Jerseys (according to the Onderstepoort Biological Products Manual of 1996).

The virus is present in saliva and skin lesions and the disease spreads by direct contact, particularly through common drinking and feeding troughs.

  • Affected animals should thus be separated from the rest.
  • This disease occurs sporadically, but is more likely during periods of high rainfall.
  • Animals develop a 2-phase fever response within a week of exposure to the virus and may remain feverish for 4 to 14 days.
  • During this time, animals usually show symptoms such as lack of appetite, a mucous discharge from the nose and increased salivation.
  • The raised nodules typical of the disease (5 mm to 50 mm in diameter) appear before or during the second increase in body temperature.
  • These deeper-lying nodules involve both the skin and tissue immediately under the skin and in bad cases, even the underlying muscles.
  • The number of nodules may vary from a few to several hundred, and occur over the whole body.

Although the mortality rate from this disease is low compared to other diseases, it causes economic losses because of emaciation, mastitis that causes temporary and even permanent loss of milk production, loss of fertility and sterility in bulls.  The hide is also damaged.

  • Vaccinate calves from 6 months old and all cattle every year, preferably before the rainy season.
  • The dosage is 5 ml under the skin, preferably in the neck.
  • Cattle should be immune after 3 weeks.

Also read: Livestock production: How vaccines work against diseases

  • This article was written by Cois Harman and first appeared in Farming SA.

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