This section is from the book "The Farmers Ready Reference Or Hand Book Of Diseases Of Horses And Cattle", by S. C. Orr. . Also available from Amazon: The Farmer's Ready Reference;.
This is a disease which affects only young cattle, and is due to a micro-organism taken into the system from the soil in some localities. As many theories have been advanced regarding the origin of the disease, its treatment and prophylactic measures, we will not discuss the merits or demerits of these different theories here, but enter at once upon a description of the plans most feasible to the farmer for saving his cattle.
It has often been said that "only fat cattle take the disease." While this is not true, yet it is a fact that only those which are thriving rapidly take it no matter whether fat or lean. And it is also a fact that depletion or a sudden check in the thriving of an animal will check the ravages of the disease, for the time being at least.
Symptoms - At first there will be loss of appetite and rumination will cease; a slight lameness may be noticed, gradually growing worse until the animal is unable to rise to its feet when down. There will be swelling in the lame limb, and, if the hand is rubbed over this gently, a crackling sound will be heard from underneath the skin. If the skin is split open, the blood will be of a black tarry appearance and too thick to flow.
Treatment. - After an animal is down and unable to stand upon its feet when helped up, no medicine will save it. But, if found while yet able to walk about, give a dose of Epsom salt, raw oil or melted lard, sufficient to open the bowels, then get upon a horse and keep the patient on a trot for an hour or two unless the bowels open freely sooner. If you succeed in getting a full, free evacuation of the bowels, the chances are you will save the calf. Also as soon as a case of blackleg is found among a lot of young cattle, the entire lot should be taken from the pasture and put in a high, dry yard where they can get neither water nor feed for twenty-four hours. It may also be well enough to give each animal a dose of Epsom salt to open the bowels. The animals should not be returned to the same pasture, but should be kept on higher and drier ground. Many preparations have been recommended as preventatives, but experience has proven them all to be of doubtful value A mixture composed of common salt, wood ashes, sulphur and saltpetre, will be found as good as any. It should be kept in troughs in the pasture where the cattle can get it at Will.
We do not wish it understood that we ignore the theories that have been advanced by learned men in regard to this disease. On the contrary, we appreciate every effort of science to fathom the true cause of, and to discover a preventative against the disease, and, as preventive inoculation in the hands of some of our most noted scientists has produced comparative immunity from the disease, we recommend every farmer to give it a trial when opportunity affords; but until such opportunity is afforded, we recommend the afore-described treatment, which we have given many trials and have never yet failed to check the ravages of the disease for the time being.