Question: I have several cows that have lots of little crusts on them with hair sticking out. These are mostly on the head, top of the neck and down the back. They look really bad, but the cows are eating and seem to be doing well. What could this be, and what do I need to do?
Answer: There are several possibilities, but this sounds most like dermatophilosis. It is caused by a bacterium, Dermatophilus congolensis, and affects many species of livestock and wild animals including cows, horses, sheep, goats and, on occasion, humans.
Rain and high humidity can lead to an increase in the incidence of this disease. It typically runs its course without treatment, especially in the drier summer months and when the long winter coat is shed. In severe cases, antibiotics or topical treatments have been used to help control the infection. Isolation of infected animals can slow the spread. Also, good control of external parasites including flies, ticks and lice is important if you want to bring it into check.
There are other diseases that can cause similar signs, including photosensitization and some fungal or viral diseases. If this problem is severe enough for you to be concerned, it's severe enough to give your veterinarian a call to make an accurate diagnosis and decide on a course of treatment.
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