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Clostridial Disease


Clostridial disease is a constant threat to livestock production in New Zealand and throughout the world. Clostridium bacteria tend to cause disease due to production of exotoxins rather than invading healthy tissue.


Clostridium bacteria can be classified into two broad groups:

  1. 1.Gas gangrene group. In this group the organisms are introduced into the tissues of an animal, actively reproduce and invade these tissues. This group produce potent toxins which enhance the spread of infection and are ultimately responsible for death.

  2. 2.Toxaemia group. This group is characterised by toxaemia (a sick animal due to toxins in the bloodstream) resulting from the absorption of toxins produced by Clostridial organisms that are normally present within the gastrointestinal tract or in food.


Many outbreaks of Clostridial disease often result in sudden death; hence it is a disease that can cause significant financial loss when an outbreak occurs.


An important thing to note about clostridia bacteria is that they are spore forming. That means the bacteria form spores that are highly resistant, surviving in the soil for several years and also in water, dust or on the surface of skin. This is why your farm may have no problems for years, and then suddenly experience an outbreak.


Clostridial diseases differ from many other bacterial diseases. in that they are not contagious. Presence of the bacteria does not necessarily lead to disease, and normally another precipitating factor is required such as muscle damage due to bruising. Hence when an outbreak does occur, it is not due to spread of infection but instead due to some trigger factor. For example, shifting calves via trucking often leads to bumped and bruised calves. The bacteria present in the muscles is able to multiply in the bruised tissue, leading to blackleg and death.


Diagnosis of Clostridial Disease Outbreaks

Diagnosis of Clostridial disease is best made using history, post mortem findings and lab sampling. Many of the Clostridial diseases run a very fast course and death may happen without many clinical signs. Some of the clostridial diseases may also occur more commonly in well fed animals that are in good condition, rather than those in poorer condition.


The Clostridial diseases of greatest importance in New Zealand cattle are Blackleg, Tetanus and Malignant Oedema.


Outbreaks of these diseases have been significantly reduced due to the widespread use of vaccines against Clostridial disease. As the organisms are common inhabitants of the soil and/or digestive tract, occasional outbreaks of various Clostridial diseases are still reported in unvaccinated cattle. Clostridial vaccines are very effective and if used according to recommendations, prevention of Clostridial disease should be achieved.


At the clinic we stock two different vaccine for Clostridial disease. One is call Ultravac 5 in 1, the other is Ultravac 7 in 1. 


Both of these contain:

  1. Cl. Perfringens type D

  2. Cl. tetani

  3. Cl.novyi type B

  4. Cl. Septicum

  5. Cl. chauvoei


Ultravax 5 in 1 prevents:

  1. Enterotoxaemia

  2. Tetanus

  3. Blacks Disease

  4. Blackleg

  5. Malignant Oedema


The 7 in 1 vaccine also contains Leptospira Hardjobovis and Leptospira Pomona and when used correctly should prevent the urinary shedding of Leptospires. Both of these vaccines should be given initially as two doses 4 to 6 weeks apart. These may be given at the time of disbudding.  A booster vaccination is recommended every 12 months to maintain high levels of protective immunity.


If you have any questions regarding Clostridial vaccinations, please call the clinic.

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