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Lawrence KS 66046

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Managing Pink Eye in Cattle

Spring is here and summer is on its way, and sadly so is pink eye infections in cattle. Every cattle owner knows the struggles that pink eye causes on their herd. I wish in this agent article I could tell you about an easy one step way to completely eradicate pink eye from your pastures or lots, but I can’t. Pink Eye is one of those pesky infections that take multiple steps and precautions to prevent and even more trouble when trying to treat those infected. In this article you will find ways that will help prevent Pink Eye and methods used to treat it, but first we need to know what causes the infection. The bacteria Moraxella bovis is the main cause. The bacteria constantly changing year to year, which makes the bacteria difficult to treat. Other factors are, tall grass, dust, sunlight, and flies.


  • Vaccination
    • There are vaccination options to control pink eye but just like the flu vaccine given to humans, it can only affect certain strains of the bacteria. Some years it might work great, and others not at all.
    • Timing also maters. If the vaccination is given too late in the year, it will not work
  • Dust Control
    • Keep dust down by keeping moisture on the ground in dry lots
  • Sunlight
    • Provide shade
  • Tall Grass
    • Cut tall grass and keep seed heads off as those can get stuck in the eye and scratch them
  • Fly Control
    • Keep flies off of cattle’s face to prevent the spread of pink from animal to animal. Options for control includes sprays, ear tags, or cattle rubs.
    • Clean areas where flies reproduce (stagnant pools of water and manure).
  • Proper Nutrition
    • When an animal performs well and has a good body condition score, it helps their immune system fight Pink Eye

Detection of Pink Eye

  • Watery/teary eyes
  • Eye stays shut
  • Inflammation in the eye
  • Develops an ulcer normally in the center of the eye
  • White/cloudy colored eye
  • Animal appears in pain


Always consult with your veterinarian! They will now what’s best for treatment in your area. There are multiple ways to try and treat pink eye, so follow your vet’s recommendations.

  • Antibiotics
    • Tetracyclines can be effective
    • Penicillin and dexamethasone can be injected into the bulbar conjunctiva (the thin membrane that covers the white portion of the eye). This should only be done by a trained veterinarian.
  • Patching the eye             
    • Patching helps keep sun, dust, and flies out. With flies not able to reach the eye, they are unable to spread pink eye to others in your herd. Patch the eye in conjunction with antibiotics.
  • Lose the eye
    • In worse case scenarios, the eye may have to be removed.


For more information on Pink Eye in cattle check out the links below:



Thompson, Dan and Matt Miesner, directors. DocTalk - Pink Eye in Cattle. DocTalk, 2016, www.youtube.com/watch?v=AHg3i0pCJdI.