Skip to content

Animal health advice (May 2014)

Animal health newsletter – May 2014

It's important to scan if you can!

It's very important to scan for pregnancy in ewes and this year. Sheep scanners are reporting good conception rates, but there are lots of single pregnancies and few twins. 

If you think back to joining, it was very dry.  This means that when the placenta was setting itself up, it did so to deliver maximum amount of nutrients to the foetus to accommodate the dry time and lack of feed. 

In effect, these placentas have super-highways inbuilt into them now to deliver nutrients. But it has now rained… and there is good green feed in many paddocks. 

This potentially means that the:

  • single foetus with its super placenta is going to get more nutrition than what is ideal. The result is a lot of large single lambs born causing difficult birth issues during lambing
  • twin bearing ewes will need nutritional management to ensure they get enough energy and don't end up with pregnancy toxaemia or lambing sickness.

So please… scan for pregnancy. Work out which ewes are pregnant and which ewes are having singles and twins so that their feed requirements can be achieved, avoiding problems down the track.

The same issues could occur with calving cows this year.  Please monitor heifer and cow condition score and adjust their nutrition so they don't get fat and deliver a large calf that requires pulling at calving time.

Foot abscess – prevention is much easier than cure

The rain over the past couple of months has caused lots of long moist green grass after a long dry spell.  This has softened the hooves of sheep and cattle and producers are experiencing problems with foot abscesses.

It is often frustrating to treat foot abscesses as response to antibiotics is not great and hoof paring is not fun for anyone! 

Its best to control foot abscess by:

  • providing areas where sheep and cattle can get off the wet grass and let their feet dry out (eg dam banks, sprayed out edges of paddocks etc)
  • monitoring fat score and feed intake to prevent stock (especially ewes) from becoming heavy

Foot abscesses can easily be confused with other causes of lameness such as footrot. If you have lame stock, please contact your District Veterinarian to get a definite diagnosis.

Foot abscess (Photo: Shaun Slattery)

Agistment nutrition advice

There are a lot of cattle moving into and out of the district at the moment.  Moving stock both directions can have their share of issues if a few things are not carefully considered.

Pasture/ nutrient differences

If sending cattle away on agistment, go and look at the paddock and the pasture.  Different areas have different pasture types and they may not be as nutritious as they look. Some areas are also trace mineral (eg Selenium) deficient which can stall growth rates. 


If bringing cattle back off agistment or bringing trader cattle into our local area, please give them a 5 in 1 vaccination upon entry.  It has rained and there is green feed and even clover in some areas, which makes pulpy kidney a likely event in unvaccinated stock.

Liver Fluke

If bringing stock back from an area down south or to the east consider splashing out and drenching them with a broad spectrum drench that covers liver fluke.

Transport problems

Any cattle being trucked long distances can suffer from metabolic imbalances (low calcium or magnesium) or shipping fever (pasturella pneumonia).  Aim to make their journey as stress free as possible by reducing crowding.  Ensure that they are kept on food and water for as long as possible before loading and straight away after unloading.

For more information get advice from a vet or livestock officer in that area. 

Local study: Foxes causing sheep measles and bladder worms

During 2012, producers in the Nevertire area contacted the former LHPA.  They were concerned that abattoir surveillance reports indicated they had high numbers of slaughtered lambs infected with sheep measles and bladder worms.

Both of these tapeworm parasites have traditionally thought to be spread via domestic dog faeces on pasture.   This is then grazed by sheep, leading to cysts developing in sheep muscle (sheep measles) or the abdominal cavity (bladder worm).

Our District Veterinarians and local landholders were involved in a study being run by David Jenkins, a parasitologist at CSU Wagga.  Locally we collected dog poo from working and house dogs on six farms in the region and overall the study collected 1400 dog faecal samples from right across the country. 

The results

Neither the sheep measles nor bladder worm parasites were found in any of the domestic dog samples.

However 500 foxes were shot as part of the project, and the tapeworm responsible for sheep measles and bladder worm were found in 6% of them! 

This is quite a ground breaking study because it:

  • is the first time that DNA technology has been used to identify the tapeworm parasite
  • contradicts historical studies that suggested that foxes were not involved in transmission of these diseases to sheep
  • means that baiting foxes is even more important than ever
  • identifies that new control strategies to stop transmission of tapeworm parasites to sheep (eg. development of a vaccine) need to be adopted.

This study is also awesome because producers from our local area became involved! 

Nutrition advice – Oats

Many producers have got oats in the ground and in some areas it is almost ready for grazing.

Forage oats is a great food source for stock - being 15-20% protein and 12-14MJ/ME.  It is however high in water content (only 25-30% Dry Matter) which may cause scouring.  If this occurs, hay can be fed out to slow down gastrointestinal transit time and firm up the faeces. 

Oats crops are also notoriously low in minerals and for this reason it is best not to calve or lamb on crops.  All stock (sheep and cattle) on oats crops should be fed a lick containing calcium and magnesium.  A good mix is:

  • 1/3 salt
  • 1/3 lime
  • 1/3 causmag.

Put out in drums at watering points and allow free access.