Ask the vet: Mfethu, here’s how to treat lumpy-skin disease in cattle

This week, an expert helps a Food For Mzansi reader who struggles with lumpy-skin disease in cows. The disease is spread by the poxvirus and usually occurs during the wet summer months, especially when there are loads of insects around

Bovine leukosis describes lymphatic cancers of cattle. The most common form of this disease occurs in adult animals and is caused by bovine leukemia virus. Photo: Supplied/Food For Mzansi

Mthombeni's family business has 650 heads of cattle, 200 sheep, and 40 goats, and we are planting 540 hectares of arable land.

Every week, Food For Mzansi readers have free access to a veterinarian. You simply need to email your animal health questions to and we’ll get an expert to help you. Remember to include pictures that could assist the vet in making the right diagnosis.

Malcolm Goliath from Gauteng writes: Help! I’ve got the weirdest nodules growing on my cattle – some as big as 5 cm. It’s all over the show. Some cows have it on the nose and udder, but I’ve also seen the exact nodules in the mouth.

You’re dealing with lumpy-skin disease (LSD), which can affect all cattle breeds in Mzansi. It is a viral disease of cattle, typically characterised by nodules or lumps on the skin. It usually occurs during the wet summer and autumn months when biting insects, like biting flies and mosquitoes, are in abundance.

LSD is a notifiable disease, which means that any suspected or confirmed case must be reported to the responsible state veterinarian. According to a government information brochure, up to 45% of your herd can become affected and the death rate may reach 10%.

The disease causes production losses: pregnant cattle may abort, marked reduction in milk yield, pneumonia, infertility, permanent damage to skin and emaciation (loss of body condition). There is a loss in income because of lower production (deaths, milk and meat, abortions, lowered breeding potential and  damage to valuable hides), and the costs of drugs to treat sick animals.

Although cattle of all ages can get the disease, vaccinated cattle are less likely to get LSD and may have less severe symptoms. Also, cattle which have had the disease and survived, cannot be infected again. Calves are protected against the disease while drinking their mother’s milk before six months.

How do cattle become infected?

What are the signs of lumpy-skin disease in cattle?

Skin nodules and ulcers can vary from a few to several thousand. The size ranges from 0,5 to 5 cm. They literally occur anywhere on the skin, including the nose, udder and vulva in cows, the scrotum in bulls, as well as in the mouth (the gums). 

Legs may become swollen and the animal does not want to move. Enlarged lymph nodes are visible as well as pneumonia or coughing. This is as a result of infection of the respiratory tract.

There may also be a discharge from the nose and eyes. Other symptoms include infertility, mastitis which lowers milk production, fever, emaciation and salivation.

How can LSD be diagnosed?

How can you prevent lumpy-skin disease in your herd?

Prevention is the cheapest and best method of control of the disease. If your animals are vaccinated, you will suffer limited or no production or financial losses as a result of the ill effects of this disease. There are several vaccines available on the market against LSD. When a vaccine is administered the vaccinated animal develops protective anti-bodies (made by white blood cells). 

ALSO READ: Ask the vet: Mfethu, here’s how to prevent cow bloating

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