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Eye disease in cattle on long-haul voyages

Did you know that MLA and LiveCorp have outlined best practice recommendations for exporters to reduce the incidence of eye disease in cattle during long-haul, overseas voyages?

Project start date: 15 March 2014
Project end date: 01 March 2019
Publication date: 26 September 2019
Project status: Completed
Livestock species: Grassfed cattle, Grainfed cattle
Relevant regions: National
Download Report (1 MB)


Severe eye disease is an occasionally significant problem in Bos taurus cattle on long-haul voyages and can impact on animal welfare and cause substantial economic loss.

Research into the vaccination for eye disease in Bos taurus cattle during quarantine periods was commissioned after veterinarians and workers in the live cattle export supply chain noticed irregular, severe outbreaks of eye disease during overseas voyages.

It was concluded that eye disease in these cattle had several different causes with different risk factors and it was not possible to directly attribute the vaccine with the zero incidence of eye disease noted during the research period. This was more likely attributable to the animals' existing immune status. Regardless, the final report outlines several best practice recommendations to help exporters reduce the incidence of the disease.


The objectives of this project were to review current literature, gather disease data from recent outbreaks, identify the causes of the current eye diseases and develop strategies for prevention.

Key findings

• The basic principles of controlling eye disease are well understood, although the lack of disease outbreak during this trial hindered any significant results.
• It is suggested that when possible and practical, exporters aim to access cattle destined for export at least four weeks before collection at quarantine, so that full courses of appropriate vaccines can be given to minimise outbreaks of eye disease.
• This project compiled a best practice guide for exporters to reduce the incidence of eye disease during long-haul voyages.

Benefits to industry

Measuring the actual impact of eye disease in Bos Taurus cattle can help improve the animal welfare and cost-effectiveness of live export.

Future research

Research should be conducted into the cost of eye disease to the industry, which should include characterisation of the number and extent of outbreaks of eye disease and the cost to exporters.

More information

Contact email:
Primary researcher: Murdoch University