Looking out for eye cancer in cattle
Early identification and immediate treatment is key to managing eye cancer in cattle.
An eye cancer is a tumour of the eyelid or eyeball and is seen mostly in white-faced cattle such as Herefords.
Eye cancers are generally found on older cattle and occur because of exposure to sunlight.
Eye cancers begin as a tiny growth and steadily increase in size. They may invade surrounding tissues and spread to other parts of the body.
Eye cancers may also cause financial losses for producers due to abattoirs condemning the carcase and loss of potential production of affected stock.
The severity of eye cancers can be reduced through the early identification of growths and making sure that farmers take prompt action to treat the animals.
The incidence of eye cancers can be reduced by genetic selection by choosing animals with pigmentation in the sclera, white of the eye, and the eyelid.
When an eye cancer is detected the course of action that should be followed depends largely upon the size and severity of the cancer.
Small eye cancers may be readily cured by prompt veterinary treatment.
However, if the owner chooses to sell they must follow these guidelines:
- if the cancer is smaller than a five-cent piece, clean, and not flyblown, the animal can be sold through a saleyard for slaughter only;
- if the cancer is sized between five and 20-cent piece, clean, and not flyblown, the animal can be sold directly to an abattoir only, on the abattoir’s acceptance and
- if the cancer is bleeding and infected or larger than a 20-cent piece, the animal should be immediately disposed of.
Owners who fail to take reasonable action to treat their animals may be considered for prosecution under the Livestock Disease Control Act or the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.
A photographic guide for different sized eye cancers outlining the course of action that should be followed, is available from your local Agriculture Victoria veterinary or animal health officer.
For further information please contact your local veterinarian or Agriculture Victoria veterinary or animal health officer, or in NSW your Local Land Services.
— Dr Jeff Cave, Senior Veterinary Officer, Agriculture Victoria