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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?


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 future prevention.

Key findings

  • The basic principles for controlling eye disease are well understood, although the lack of disease outbreaks made investigating preventative options difficult.

  • 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, which covers the risk factors, clinical signs and methods of minimising the incidence of eye disease in the live export chain.

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.

MLA action and future research

  • The report recommended that future research should evaluate the cost of eye disease to the industry, which should include characterisation of the number and extent of outbreaks of eye disease.

  • Based off those recommendations, MLA has begun follow-up research into the prevalence, incidence, prevention and treatment of pink eye in cattle. The new project is due for completion in 2021. 

  • The pink eye best practice guidelines have been communicated to industry through MLA's live export channels and will also be released as a webinar.


Title Size Date published
936.7KB 26/09/2019


Contract No. Title Start date End date Funding type
Pinkeye on Long Haul Cattle Voyages
15/03/2014 01/03/2019

This page was last updated on 03/07/2020