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EHD Worrying Ranchers

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Epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) in white-tailed deer is impacting some cattle herds in the Plains.

Epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) is an acute, infectious, often fatal, viral disease that impacts some wild ruminants. Another similar disease called bluetongue has been causing some deer die-offs recently in my area in South Dakota. Once contracted, this virus is fatal to white-tailed deer, and although it’s not a danger to people, it can spread to domestic livestock.

The Rapid City Journal reports that, “More than 100 dead white-tailed deer found in and near streams in southern Butte County brought South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks to hold back unsold licenses in the county and some other deer hunting units. Bill Eastman, the Belle Fourche-based state game warden, says that since his first call about a sick deer Aug. 14, he has seen a minimum of 100 whitetail carcasses in the southern part of Butte County. He says he certainly hasn't seen all the deer struck down by an insect-carried virus.

"It has gotten significantly worse in southern Butte County on a localized level," he says.

“Once an infected insect bites a white-tailed deer, those deer could be dead within hours to a few days. It's internal hemorrhaging as well as severe fever. A lot of these dead white-tailed deer can be found near or in water, because of high fever and trying to cool off. A lot of the calls that I have taken have been in Spearfish Creek, the Redwater River drainage, Hay Creek and the Belle Fourche River.

“Drought conditions probably contributed to the EHD disease outbreak disease in what had been large white-tail herds. Outbreaks have been spotty and local. Frost kills the flies that carry the virus, so usually the disease has run its course by the first hard frost and opening of hunting season.”

Yet, despite the cooler temperatures, some ranchers are seeing EHD in their cattle herds.

Bryan Nagel, who runs a feedlot in Avon, SD, talked to a local station, KDLT News, last night about EHD impacting his calves. Although not officially diagnosed, Nagel believes some of his calves were lost to the virus.

“It's something you can spot, but you just have to monitor your cowherd or feedlot a little more often. We lost a couple of calves here in a matter of a week; that really shouldn’t have happened,” says Nagel.

James Pajl, DVM, Yankton Veterinary Clinic, says EHD isn't nearly as harmful for cattle as it is for deer: “The cow generally runs a fever and develop sores in the mouth. The sores cause pain, so they stop eating. Their back legs may also become sore, making them lame. They are not willing to eat very well, they just lay around. They just really feel bad.

“If a cow has EHD, all it takes is a shot of an antibiotic, 10 to 14 days, and it's back to normal. For now, farmers just wait for it to get colder, so flies carrying the disease die off, and the virus stops spreading.”

Watch the news video here.

From reports I’ve heard, farmers have had to move deer carcasses in the field when out combining corn. And others have had older cows, that are more succeptible to the virus, fall ill from EHD, noting fever, sore legs and weight loss as clues to what is ailing the animal.

Consumers shouldn’t be alarmed. EHD does not endanger humans or impact the quality or safety of beef. As Nagel reassured the reporters in his interview, “Beef, it’s what’s for dinner.”

If you have questions about EHD, link here.


Have you seen EHD impact the wildlife or cattle in your area?

Discuss this Blog Entry 4

Wheeler Co., NE (not verified)
on Oct 11, 2012

We have had several cows with it, and have lost two.

on Oct 11, 2012

Sorry to hear that. Did you confirm with a vet for an official diagnosis, or were the symptoms pretty clear?

Russ Daly, DVM (not verified)
on Oct 11, 2012

Amanda, thanks for putting the information out there. We have been keeping track of the situation in South Dakota cattle at: http://www.sdstate.edu/vs/extension/index.cfm. Will plan to keep updating as cases come in. Russ

Terry Church (not verified)
on Oct 11, 2012

Here in North Carolina deer are dying from Bluetongue. In some areas there was talk of closing deer season. I haven't heard of anyone having a problem with livestock getting sick or dying. Having read this article I'm concerned. No one has said that this could affect the domestic livestock. A few months back we had deer all around, even in the yard. Now I haven't seem any deer in quiet sometime. I haven't had any sick cattle or horses. I hope no one has a problem.

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BEEF Daily Blog is produced by rancher Amanda Radke, one of the U.S. beef industry’s top social media “agvocates.”

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Amanda Radke

A fifth-generation rancher from Mitchell, SD, Amanda grew up on a purebred Limousin cattle operation in which she and husband Tyler are active. She graduated with a degree in agriculture journalism...

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