The prevalence, incidence and clinical signs of listeriosis in dairy cattle in England were investigated by means of a postal questionnaire survey of 1500 dairy farmers. The response rate was 64.1 per cent. Overall the farm prevalence of listeriosis was 11.7 per cent, 9.3 per cent for milking cows, 5.0 per cent for replacement heifers and 1.4 per cent for dairy calves. The within-herd incidence rate per thousand animal-years was 51.4 for all cases, 39.7 for milking cows, 86.6 for replacement heifers and 73.7 for dairy calves. Most cases of clinical listeriosis were reported between December and May, and the most common signs were silage eye, followed by nervous signs. The results of the questionnaire were validated internally by re-estimating the farm prevalence by including only those cases diagnosed by a veterinarian or veterinary investigation centre; the prevalence did not change significantly. The proportion of cases which were culled or died of encephalitic listeriosis was compared with the proportion diagnosed during statutory BSE reporting. The fact that the two proportions were similar provided external validation for the results of the questionnaire.
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