National Foods Stockfeeds :: From the Vet's Desk - Red Water

The Vets Desk

Keep your livestock healthy with fresh tips from your preferred vet

Red Water (bovine Babesiosis)

Cows/Cattle in a Field

What is it?
Redwater is a tick-borne disease of cattle that is of major economic importance to cattle farmers in Zimbabwe.

Redwater is caused by a protozoan parasite (Babesia species) which targets the animals' red blood cells. The parasite is transmitted between cattle by brown ticks i.e. Rhipicephalus (Boophilus) spp ticks. The major clinical presentations of red water include fever, loss of appetite (animals stop grazing), weakness, anemia, and passing of reddish/brown urine (thus the common name red water). Sometimes animals with red water die suddenly without showing any clinical signs of sickness.

The major preventative measure is to control the tick vector. This is best achieved by regular dipping in acaricide. It is recommended to dip cattle once per week during the rainy season and once fortnightly during the dry season. Additionally, the application of tick grease in the ear, under the tail, and tail brush should be done. If dips are not available, animals can be sprayed with acaricides or topical formulations can be used. Movement of tick-infested animals is illegal and should be avoided as it spreads the disease to other areas.
Indigenous cattle breeds (Bos indicus) are more resistant to redwater than European breeds (Bos taurus). It is also worth noting that calves younger than six months have an innate resistance to red water, therefore if moving cattle to an endemic redwater area, it is better to introduce them during calf-hood and allow them to develop acquired immunity to red water before this innate immunity weanes off. Another tool that can be used to control red water is vaccination and the vaccine can be sourced from the Department of Veterinary Services.

Treatment and Control
Redwater can be treated using either imidocarb dipropionate or diminazene aceturate. In severe disease, supportive therapy may include blood transfusion and the use of anti-inflammatory agents.

Dr Brian Fungai Chikodze BVSc, UZ
Disclaimer: Dr Brian Chikodze writes in own personal capacity as a licenced veterinary officer. All views, opinions and recommendations given by Dr Chikodze are given in his own personal capacity and National Foods accepts no responsibility emanating from action that may be taken by anyone based on Dr Chikodze's suggestions and recommendations.

January Disease (Theileriosis)

Cows/Cattle grazing in a Meadow

Anthrax, which is caused by the bacteria Bacillus anthracis, is a disease...Read More


Vet diagnosing Cow

Anthrax, which is caused by the bacteria Bacillus anthracis, is a disease...Read More

Follow Us

Mockup Image

Share On Social Media:

Ask the Vet a question