An uncommon and potentially fatal strain of pneumonia is impacting herds of cattle across Britain. There have been reports of fog fever, also known as Acute Bovine Pulmonary Edema and Emphysema (ABPEE), in adult cattle after grazing on lush grass.
Fog fever is a rapidly progressing form of pneumonia in cattle resulting in heavy breathing, frothing at the mouth and can be fatal in some cases. It is believed to have been caused by the recent dramatic changes in Britain’s weather with prolonged spells of blistering heat followed by heavy rain.
The unusual weather pattern has caused grass that was dry and sparse during the recent heat wave to now grow abruptly after being saturated by rain. The pasture contains an excess of a normal protein found in grass, which can be poisonous to cattle and attack the lung cells of the animal.
Although the disease is only present within a small percentage of the national herd, is not transmittable to other animals and poses no risk to human health, farmers are concerned that by time the symptoms of the fever fully present themselves, it may already be too late to save some of the cattle that are infected.
Andrew Hill, farm manger of one affected herd in Somerset said: “I’ve never seen anything like it in 35 years of farming. I’ve now treated six cows with it and lost two of them. Even my vet tells me he’s only seen this once before in Canada so it’s really unusual.”
Farmers are being advised by their vets to limit the amount of grass adult cattle have access to by either strip grazing, part feeding them with hay or grazing land with young stock or sheep first. It is hoped that the number of cases will reduce as the weather settles down over the coming weeks.