How to identify Redwater and ways to prevent the disease

Redwater is a life-threatening disease of cattle caused by a parasite called Babesia divergens and the parasite is transmitted by ticks, Animal Health Ireland (AHI) says.

High risk periods for Redwater, AHI says, are late spring/early summer and autumn. However, cases of Redwater may occur throughout the year, if conditions for ticks are suitable, it says.

Farmers should monitor cattle carefully for early signs of Redwater, it says.

Here’s what you should be looking out for in your cattle:

  1. Animals staying away from the herd.
  2. Reduced appetite.
  3. High temperature.
  4. Frothy, red-brown urine.
  5. “Pipestem diarrhoea”.

As the disease progresses anaemia, jaundice, constipation and recumbency can occur, AHI says.

One of the unusual features of Redwater AHI says is that calves exhibit some natural resistance compared to adult cattle.

Cattle under approximately six months tend not to develop clinical disease and will develop immunity if exposed to the disease, it says.

AHI says that possible methods of reducing clinical cases of Redwater include:

  • Preventing animals from being bitten by ticks through:
    – Pasture management (clear scrub, prevent overgrowth).
    – Preventing cattle grazing tick-infested areas during major risk periods.
    – Applying topical products to control ticks. When the effect of these products wears off, the animal is once again susceptible to being bitten and infected.
  • If cattle must graze areas infested with ticks, ensure they are exposed to these areas before six months of age.
  • Injecting cattle animals with imidocarb diproprionate (prescription only medicine, withdrawal period is 213 days for meat and 21 days for milk).

Cattle should be allowed to be infected with the Redwater parasite in the four weeks following administration, it says.

They will then go on to develop immunity to Redwater and AHI says it is important to note that if they are not infected during this time, they will not develop immunity and remain susceptible.

Contact your veterinary practitioner immediately if you suspect Redwater, AHI says.

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