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Damon Pollard
March 28, 2022

This is Damon Pollard, Livestock agent with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service Burke Center. Today’s program is on blackleg.

Blackleg is a soil borne bacterial infection of cattle. It primarily affects young cattle from 6 months to 2 years of age. The causative organism is related to the tetanus organism. The disease is fast progressing. One morning you go out into the pasture and find a dead calf, or two. This disease progresses so fast that there is often no opportunity to observe the sick animal before death.

One of the unique symptoms is the formation of gas bubbles just under the skin. If you press on these, you will often get a crinkling sound as the bubbles burst. But  if the disease attacks deep inside the animal involving the heart or diaphragm, this symptom will not appear.

If you happen to find an animal in the early stages of the disease, he will have a fever and be unwilling to walk. If he does walk it will be with a stagger.

The really bad thing is that it seems to affect your fastest growing calves first. This makes sense when you consider that this is a soil-borne disease and it is the fastest growing calves which are most likely to graze closely and pick up a little dirt with their grass.

The good thing is that its so easily prevented. Very effective and inexpensive vaccines are available. In many cases the syringe costs more than the vaccine. Simply vaccinate your calves between the ages of 4-6 months, and you shouldn’t have anything to worry about.

This is Damon Pollard, Livestock agent with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service-Burke Center. You can call me at 764-9480.