Mycoplasma bovis much worse than frog in throat
Last week, I was talking a bit about causes of pneumonia in cattle and cows.
At the end of the article, I mentioned about mycoplasma bovis. Some farmers are very aware of this disease, because they have had untold problems from it.
This is a bacterium that some would have us believe was brought into this country when the quarantine laws were relaxed, and free movement allowed importation of cattle from France, the Netherlands, and further afield. Unfortunately, as history has taught us, some of these animals also brought diseases with them that we did not previously have in this country. Mycoplasma was one of these diseases. It is a fairly basic form of bacterium, and it does not have a cell wall.
The main way that it enters the animal is through the mouth and nose.
Unlike a lot of other agents that cause pneumonia, this mycoplasma is apparently not carried on the wind, and is transferred from one animal to the next by direct contact.
This may be by the use of a cattle tongs without disinfecting in between animals.
It may be by means of the nipple on either a milk bucket or an automatic feeder. Since this mycoplasma can also cause mastitis, calves sucking an infected cow will also pick it up. Once an animal has this mycoplasma, then it is a carrier for life, so you can appreciate the need for vigilance and also the possible need for eradication from your farm if you have it.
The problem is so great in New Zealand at present, that the government there has started an eradication programme and they expect to cull at least 120,000 animals to achieve eradication.
This should alert farmers to the need to be extra vigilant when buying in animals, and to question if you really need to buy in at all. Talk to your vet about what precautions you need to take.
Once the mycoplasma enters the animal, it loves attaching itself to the mucous membranes that line the inside of the mouth and nose, the pharynx, the windpipe and the oesophagus. Being in the back of the throat, it is handily placed to infect any mucus and snot that leaves the animal, and this is how it spreads from one animal to the next, when they are in close winter confinement in the house. It has been reported that following the introduction of an infected animal to a calf rearing house in Italy, it took only a few weeks for 100% of the calves to become infected.
Since the mycoplasma is based in the back of the throat, it can make its way up the tube connecting from there to the ear, and will then cause middle ear infections which may or may not show pus. These, calves usually, may show a tilting of the head due to pain in the ear. When it causes mastitis in the cow, the udder becomes swollen, but without pain, and the somatic cell count goes through the roof. This kind of mastitis is particularly unresponsive to most of the available antibiotics. It has also been responsible for severe joint infections in cows and calves, and again, these prove almost impossible to cure.
It is a problem with cattle all over the world and although there is no cause for concern for humans consuming the meat or milk from any infected animal, there is major concern for animal welfare and productivity of herds that become infected with mycoplasma. If you are unlucky to be affected by this disease, you should contact your local vet for more information.