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Pink Eye

Pink Eye

Pink Eye is also known as Infectious Bovine Keratoconjunctivitis (IBK) or Infectious Ovine Keratoconjunctivitis (IOK) can cause serious problems for cattle, sheep, goats and for producer’s bottom line.

Pink Eye in cattle is caused by bacteria called Morexella bovis (and uncommonly Moraxella bovoculi) being transferred by flies. In sheep and goats it is caused by Chlamydia and Mycoplasma species. These bacteria in the secretions of infected livestock survive on or in face flies for 48 to 72 hour. The flies infect other animals when the flies feed again. As flies may move as far as 6km during their lifespan spread between herds and farms is easy. 


Traditionally, we associate pink eye with increased fly numbers, but it is a multifaceted disease so this is not the only time it occurs. We also see pink eye increase in areas which have high numbers of grass seeds released, paddocks with minimal shade, and herds with low immunity. Lately, some producers have been experiencing outbreaks of pink eye with only a few flies. During our drought, creeks and dams are drying up and this making the moist parts of the cows more attractive to the flies.

Early detection of eye problems is essential to minimizing the impact of Pink Eye in your stock. When assessing your animals if they are blinking a lot, you see flies irritation at the corner of their eyes, increased tears, or closing eyelids then start treating ASAP.


Management strategies can have a positive impact on Pink eye control, minimizing numbers affected and the cost of an outbreak. The top 5 steps to take to minimize your risk of pink eye are:

  • Control Flies. Control of face flies is challenging. Regular application of insecticides to the face of cattle, and /or buffalo fly ear tags are the best way to help.
  • Early detection. Regular stock checks, making sure you are observing the animals’ faces, and for flies is essential. Then institute quick action if symptoms are spotted. This minimizes exposure of your stock to the bacteria.
  • Maximise Herd immunity. Make sure your stock is not micro-mineral deficient. Selenium deficiency is a particular risk factor. Make sure other diseases such as Bovine Ephemeral Fever and Pestivirus are not suppressing your cattle’s immune systems.
  • Maintain an irritant-free environment. Ensure stock have adequate access to shade, that waste build-up is minimized, and that paddocks with heavy grass seed burdens are slashed prior to cattle being introduced.
  • Consider Vaccination. There is a vaccination against Morexella bovis called Piliguard available. As this bacteria is the most common culprit, vaccination should be protective against this destructive bacterial infection. Unfortunately, we do not have a vaccination to prevent Pink Eye for sheep and goats.


Once you notice eye irritation or pink eye lesions spray for flies ASAP and get quickly to the vet. The sooner we start antibiotics and get the infection under control the less stock will be impacted. Antibiotics may be topical eye medications or injectable antibiotics, the prescribed course should always be followed.

  • Posted 22 January, 2019

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