Case Report

Hepatogenous photosensitisation in cows grazing turnips (Brassica rapa) in South Africa

Anthony J. Davis, Mark G. Collett, Johan C.A. Steyl, Jan G. Myburgh
Journal of the South African Veterinary Association | Vol 92 | a2106 | DOI: | © 2021 Anthony J. Davis, Mark Collett, Johan Steyl, Jan Myburgh | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 28 September 2020 | Published: 06 May 2021

About the author(s)

Anthony J. Davis, Humansdorp Veterinary Clinic, Humansdorp, South Africa
Mark G. Collett, School of Veterinary Science, Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand
Johan C.A. Steyl, Department of Paraclinical Sciences, Faculty of Veterinary Science, University of Pretoria, Onderstepoort, South Africa
Jan G. Myburgh, Department of Paraclinical Sciences, Faculty of Veterinary Science, University of Pretoria, Onderstepoort, South Africa


Holstein cows on a farm in the Humansdorp district, Eastern Cape province, South Africa, developed reddened, painful teat skin 3 days after grazing a mixed forage crop dominated by bulb turnip (Brassica rapa, Barkant cultivar). The crop was grazed 45 days after planting and 10% of the herd developed symptoms. More characteristic non-pigmented skin lesions started manifesting 1–2 days after the appearance of the teat lesions. Affected cows had elevated serum activities of gamma-glutamyl transferase, glutamate dehydrogenase and aspartate aminotransferase. These blood chemistry findings confirmed a secondary (hepatogenous) photosensitivity. As a result of the severity of the teat and skin lesions, seven cows were slaughtered and tissue samples from five of them were collected for histopathological examination. Liver lesions in cows that were culled 3 or more weeks after the onset of the outbreak showed oedematous concentric fibrosis around medium-sized bile ducts and inflammatory infiltrates in portal tracts. Characteristic lesions associated with other known hepatobiliary toxicities were not found. No new cases were reported 5 days after the cattle were removed from the turnips. The sudden introduction of the cows, without any period of transitioning or adaptation to grazing turnips, as well as the short latent period, clinical signs of photosensitisation, blood chemistry and histopathology, confirmed a diagnosis of Brassica-associated liver disease, a condition seen in New Zealand but not previously described in South Africa. Brassica forage crops are potentially toxic under certain conditions and farmers must be aware of these risks.


Brassica rapa; forage turnip; dairy cattle; teat lesions; Barkant; Brassica-associated liver disease; hepatogenous photosensitivity; South Africa


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