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United Kingdom

Clostridial diseases

beef cows in a row

Clostridial diseases are caused by a group of bacteria that share the same environment as cattle. These organisms are ever present, existing in soil, on pasture, within buildings and even in the tissues and organs of farmed ruminants. Clostridial diseases have been recognised for over 200 years, and affect sheep, cattle and other species worldwide

For much of the time, clostridial bacteria remain dormant and effectively harmless, often in the form of highly resistant spores that can survive for many years.

When certain common trigger factors occur, including; changes in management, parasitic activity and traumatic damage to organs. The bacteria are then stimulated to multiply, the resulting release of lethal toxins causes the signs of clostridial disease that virtually always lead to the very rapid death of the animal.


Clostridial diseases

Common clostridial diseases in cattle and their causes


C. chauvoei


C. tetani


C. botulinum

Black Disease

C. novyi type B

Malignant Oedema

C. septicum, sordellii, novyi

Bacterial Redwater

C. haemolyticum (novyi type D)

Gas gangrene of abomasum

C. sordellii


C.perfringens type A


Clostridial diseases are consistently an important cause of sudden death on UK farms. Clostridial infections progress rapidly and intensive treatment with antibiotics is rarely effective.

Effort must be focussed on ensuring good immunity against disease through effective vaccination strategies. There are two types of immune protection;

Active: the animal is vaccinated so that it makes a response to infection and protects itself against disease

Passive: a dam is vaccinated to increase colostral antibodies that can be passed to her offspring to protect the young for a short period of time

For continued protection, young stock must receive a full primary course of vaccine, timed to minimise the risk period when passive immunity has waned. Multivalent vaccines are readily available giving cost effective protection against clostridial diseases.