Research Report

Eye disease in cattle on long-haul voyages


Severe eye disease is an occasionally significant problem in Bos taurus cattle on long-haul voyages. It can impact animal welfare and cause substantial economic loss.

Research into vaccination for eye disease in Bos taurus cattle during pre-export quarantine was commissioned after veterinarians and workers in the live cattle export supply chain noticed irregular, severe outbreaks of eye disease during voyages.

It was concluded that eye disease in these cattle had several causes with different risk factors and it was not possible to directly attribute the vaccine with the zero incidence of eye disease noted during the research period. This was more likely attributable to the animals' existing immune status. Regardless, the final report outlines several best practice recommendations to help exporters reduce the incidence of the disease.


The objectives of this project were to review current literature, gather disease data from recent outbreaks, identify the causes of the current eye diseases and develop strategies for future prevention.

Key findings
  • The basic principles for controlling eye disease are well understood, although the lack of disease outbreaks made investigating preventative options difficult.

  • It is suggested that, when possible and practical, exporters aim to access cattle destined for export at least four weeks before collection at quarantine, so that full courses of appropriate vaccines can be given to minimise outbreaks of eye disease.

  • This project compiled a best practice guide for exporters, which covers the risk factors, clinical signs and methods of minimising the incidence of eye disease in the live export chain.

Benefits to industry

Measuring the actual impact of eye disease in Bos taurus cattle can help improve the animal welfare and cost-effectiveness of live export.

Future research and recommendations

The report recommended that future research should evaluate the cost of eye disease to the industry, which should include characterisation of the number and extent of outbreaks of eye disease.

Eye disease in cattle on long-haul voyages
Research Organisation

Murdoch University



Project Code



Beef Cattle, Dairy Cattle