Parasite Watch, Sheep farming

Clostridia diseases: How to protect your livestock

The sudden death of livestock is every farmers’ worst fear. Not only is it upsetting and stressful, it’s also extremely costly. Yet productive animals are lost to Clostridial diseases on a daily basis. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be that way. Protecting your sheep and cattle from lethal Clostridial toxins can be easy, effective and affordable.

What are Clostridia?

Clostridia are a class of bacteria that can cause a huge range of livestock diseases. These types of bacteria are widespread, tenacious and incredibly dangerous. For example, Clostridia can survive in soil for years before killing a healthy cow or sheep within hours.

The toxins produced by Clostridia are among the most harmful known. By the time you realise that one of your animals is ill, it will often be too late for treatment. In fact, Clostridial diseases can be so aggressive that an animal may die before you even detect symptoms.  


Where are Clostridia found?

Clostridia bacteria are extremely widespread in the natural world. They can be found in soil, rotting vegetation, decomposing animal matter, surface water and spoiled animal feed. Certain types of clostridia bacteria are also present in the gut and other tissues of healthy livestock.

How do Clostridia bacteria trigger disease?

Clostridial bacteria themselves are not inherently harmful - hence how an animal can live normally with the bacteria in their gut. It’s the toxins that are released when Clostridia rapidly multiply that cause disease. Triggers include simple factors such as; unhealed wounds, internal bruising or even changes in diet.

The list of fatal diseases that Clostridia can cause is long. Cattle can fall to blackleg, tetanus, malignant oedema and redwater. In sheep Clostridia can cause all of the above as well as pulpy kidney, braxy and struck. These diseases are nearly always fatal even with urgent veterinary intervention.

Figure 1 – The different species of Clostridia and how & whom they effect

Figure 1 – The different species of Clostridia and how & whom they effect


As a livestock farmer, your animals are one of your most important assets. The death of a productive animal is directly linked to your bottom line. There’s also the cost of replacement animals as well as carcass disposal fees to consider. It’s not inconceivable that the death of one productive cow could cost well in excess of £1,000.

Of course, fallen livestock have an emotional toll too. It is difficult to work on a farm where animals are at risk of suffering or dying from preventable disease. Farm staff will feel strong emotional bonds with the animals they care for and fallen stock are sure to impact negatively on staff morale.

Early warning signs

Sadly, by the time you notice the signs of a Clostridial disease in one of your animals, it will be too late for treatment. However, very occasionally there are some early warning signs. With blackleg, for example, thighs may appear swollen and the tail may be raised in cattle. Meanwhile a loss of coordination may be identified during the onset of pulpy kidney in sheep, however these will more often not be seen and a dead animal is the first sign.

How to protect your livestock from Clostridia diseases

Effective vaccines are available for most common Clostridia. For example, Covexin 10® protects sheep and cattle from ten key Clostridia bacteria, providing active immunity for up to one year.

To ensure good protection against Clostridia, cattle and sheep require two subcutaneous injections in the side of the neck - four-six weeks apart. Following this each animal will need a booster injection every 12 months to stay protected.

Young calves and lambs via colostrum from vaccinated dams or can be vaccinated from 2 weeks of age

By giving cows and ewes a booster between eight and two weeks before birth, newborns will receive protection against Clostridia through colostrum. This will provide passive immunity for up to eight weeks in calves and up to 12 weeks in lambs. After that, for continued protection a primary vaccination course will be necessary.

In a nutshell...

Clostridial diseases are extremely aggressive and nearly always fatal. Keeping your livestock safe is as simple as administering an effective vaccination, with Covexin 10 providing the broadest available spectrum of protection. It’s a proven, cost-effective way to prevent many of the diseases that cause sudden death, and in doing so it helps farmers secure their livelihoods.

To stay up-to-date with the latest threats to your livestock, be sure to follow us on Twitter with our dedicated sheep farmers, beef farmers, and dairy farmers profiles.

COVEXIN 10 FOR SHEEP AND CATTLE contains C. perfringens type A toxoid, C. perfringens type B & C (ß) toxoid, C. perfringens type D toxoid (ε), C. chauvoei whole culture, C. novyi toxoid, C. septicum toxoid, C. tetani toxoid, C. sordellii toxoid, C. haemolyticum toxoid. For the active immunisation of sheep/cattle from 2 weeks of age against disease associated with infections caused by the above bacterium. POM-VPS

For further information, please contact your veterinary surgeon, SQP or Zoetis UK Ltd, Walton Oaks, Tadworth, Surrey, KT20 7NS. Customer support: 0845 300 8034. Use medicines responsibly (