Three-day Stiff-sickness in Brahmans

Three-day Stiff-sickness (TDS), also known as Bovine Ephemeral Virus, is a viral disease that affects cattle and buffaloes, commonly spread by insects such as biting midges. The disease is able to cause significant economic loss to farmers due to the loss of condition, decreased fertility, lowered milk production and, in severe cases, death of affected livestock.

Brahmans and TDS:

The Brahman breed is highly susceptible to the disease, with infected cows showing a significant drop in milk production and an increase in the rate of spontaneous abortions. Bulls that have contracted the virus exhibit temporary infertility.

Incidences of TDS:

It has been found that in South Africa the virus disappears as soon as the first frosts of winter appears, but it is not known where the virus overwinters. The spread of the disease has been linked to season and weather, with rain and wind seemingly the manner by which the virus is spread.


Cattle that have contracted the virus go through three stages of the disease, namely the acute febrile stage, muscular stiffness and recovery. The febrile stage is especially noticeable in dairy cattle, where cattle show signs of fever and shivering. Feed intake drops and milk productions is dramatically reduced. Affected animals stand with arched backs and lowered heads, and may express discharge from nostrils and eyes.

During the stage of muscular stiffness, lameness may be prevalent in one or more limbs, with some animals also experiencing bloat and visibly swollen limbs. Animals in the recovery stage will show improved feed and water intake, but may also go down. Cattle most affected by the virus may stay down due to damage to the muscles or spinal cord. Although fatalities are usually found in less than 1% of infected cattle, some animals that contract TDS may experience permanent paralysis.


Vaccines may be acquired through a registered and qualified veterinarian and anti-inflammatory medication is recommended as it reduces the lifespan of the disease. Calcium is another recommended step as it may help animals that have gone down.

Although the vaccination is affordable and will stop almost all animals from contracting the disease, some animals may show mild symptoms of infections. For longer lasting immunity, it is recommended that the vaccine is administered twice, between two weeks and six months apart, as well as administering annual boosters. Vaccinations should be administered in the winter months so that cattle are immunised before summer rains commence.

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