New Forest Eye Disease In Cattle

Recently we had a cow in the fold yard that had something wrong with it’s eye. Initially we thought that the cow had knocked her eye as the eyelid was closed, there was some swelling around the eye area and some of the Charolais cows had been fighting. However the eye did not seem to be recovering and we could see staining on the side of the face, the eyelid was closed most of the time and the surface of the eye looked like it was beginning to cloud over. We saught veterinary advice and treated the infected eye with antibiotics for New Forest Eye Disease.

Cow With Infected Eye

Richard Lavin, the National Animal Disease Information Service vet, provides useful information about the New Forest Eye Disease in cattle, in the NADIS Cattle Disease Focus report from 2004.

“What is New Forest Eye?

  • New forest eye is an eye infection in cattle.
  • The disease is primarily caused by the bacterium Moraxella bovis.
  • Cattle of any age can be infected.
  • The disease is seen most commonly in young stock and yearlings during the Summer months.
  • The highest rates of infection are seen in low lying, wet pastures with a high fly population.
  • The bacteria can be spread by flies.
  • Factors such as long grass and dusty conditions can cause eye damage which allow the bacteria to attach to the eye of the cattle.

Symptoms at The Early Stages

  • Excess tear production, with staining on the side of the face.
  • Dislike of bright sunlight.
  • Closed eyelids.

Symptoms At The Later Stages

  • Surface of eye becomes cloudy and white.
  • An ulcer develops, usually in the centre of the eye.
  • The ulcer may rupture causing loss of the lens and sight in the eye.
  • This condition may be extremely painful, resulting in lower weight gain.”

This is an extremely painful and irritating infection which should be treated quickly.

Seek advice from the vet for the correct diagnosis and treament of the animals.


  • A wide range of topical antibiotics, applied daily, can cure the infection. (Check with the vet for which antibiotic to use.)
  • Subconjunctival antibiotic injections can sometimes be very helpful. (These injections should only be given by a vet.)

Early treatment is essential in order to prevent irreversible damage to the eye.


  • Good fly control is necessary for prevention of New Forest Eye Disease.
  • Pasture management is necessary so that cattle are kept away from areas where conditions attract flies.
  • Cattle should be frequently checked during the risk periods.”

Visit the NADIS website for more information about New Forest Eye Disease.

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