Herd Anaemia in Cattle

Phil Rogers MRCVS <philrogers@eircom.net>
Grange Research Centre, Dunsany, Co. Meath, Ireland

| Causes | Remedies |

CAUSES: Differential diagnosis of herd anaemia is difficult. Causes include:

Main causes Comment
Low quality/intake of winter feed Haemoglobin levels usually rise from Apr to Nov and fall from Nov to Apr; "winter anaemia" usually recovers within 1 month after turnout to good pasture
Undernutrition Deficiency of protein/energy
Parasitism Especially lice, fluke, worms, skin/liver/gut etc
Infections Protozoal, bacterial, viral, fungal
Toxins/aplastic anaemia Plant poisoning (kale, bracken etc); chemical poisons); liver disease
Haemorrhage Anticoagulants (warfarin, spoiled clover), infections. PPH (pruritus, pyrexia and haemorrhage) syndrome on silage
Haemolysis Poor collection/handling of samples; bacterial, protozoal, viral infections; toxins; toxicities (Cu, etc); postparturient haemoglobinuria (possibly associated with P deficiency)
Immunomediated anaemia  This can arise, but is rare
Mineral deficiency or toxicity Deficiency of Co, Cu, maybe Se has caused anaemia in cattle and sheep elsewhere but rarely in Ireland. Fe deficiency does not occur in animals with access to soil. P, Cu and Se deficiency and kale/rape etc have been involved in post-parturient haemoglobinuria elsewhere. Haemolytic anaemia can arise in Cu toxicity, especially in sheep.


REMEDIAL ACTIONS in herd anaemia include:

Remedial actions Comments
Identify and correct the causal factors  See main causes, above.
Mineral supplements? Anaemia due to mineral deficiency in cattle is rare in Ireland. If the levels of Cu, Se, Co or P are low on blood test, it is advisable to increase their supply.

A quick way to check if mineral deficiency is involved is to give a good mineral supplement high in trace-elements. If the animals do not show a good response within 3-6 weeks, the cause is unlikely to be mineral deficiency.