Damon Odom is a very nice guy, but you don’t really want him to visit your place all that much – at least not in his professional capacity.

A veterinarian for 26 years, Odom treats animals large and small. “I treat dogs and cats,” he explained, “but also cows, goats and sheep. Basically, I’ll treat anything but a snake.”

Odom estimates that 60% of his work is actually performed as on-site calls to farm operations. He pointed to three main maladies that consistently make up the largest part of his farm visit caseloads, and offered his advice to farmers on identifying problems early on.

Early detection and quarantining afflicted livestock can help to avoid a much larger and costlier problem further down the line.

  • Pneumonia & Respiratory Issues – According to USDA-APHIS, pneumonia is responsible for 11% of all deaths in adult dairy cows. Odom counseled farmers to be on the lookout for reduced appetite, fever, increased respiratory rate, lethargy, decreased milk production, coughing and excessive nasal discharge.
  • Parasites & Intestinal Conditions – Odom said that scours (diarrhea) is a very common indicator of intestinal distress in livestock. Farmers should also be aware that weight loss, bottle jaw, difficulty standing and blood and mucus in the feces can all be warning signs of intestinal parasites.
  • Foot Rot – Foot rot is a hoof infirmity recurrently found in sheep, goats and cattle. This ailment literally rots away the foot of the animal, specifically the area between the toes. Odom described foot rot as extremely painful and contagious, and therefore a big risk to a flock or herd. Farmers inspecting their animals for foot rot should check for red and tender skin between the toes, toe separation due to swelling, a foul odor coming from the area, fever and lameness. Keep in mind that should a crack develop between the toes and turn a yellowish color, infection has likely set in.
New farmer knowledge: Three main maladies

Dr. Damon Odom is both a large and small animal vet. He listed three main areas of concern for those raising livestock. Photo courtesy of Damon Odom

So what precautions can a farmer take?

“Work with your vet to develop a good herd health program,” advised Odom. “You should deworm your animals twice a year, in the spring and again in the fall.” He recommended either an injectable or oral dewormer as the better option for the spring treatment and then switching to a pour-over application for autumn.

“You should also vaccinate. It’s so important,” he added. He noted that a vigilant vaccination regime is not only good for a farmer’s animals’ overall health, but for the farmer’s wallet as well.

“It’s way cheaper than the alternative,” Odom said. “You can vaccinate your animals for about $4.50 per head. Antibiotic treatments can run somewhere between $70 to $110 per dose.”

by Enrico Villamaino