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Pimelea poisoning in cattle

February 2015, Dr Jillian Kelly, Regional Vet

In the last few months we have found a plant called Pimelea in the Central West Local Land Services region.

The reason this is significant is that it causes illness and death in cattle. While historically it has been reported to grow in this area it has not been recognised by property owners or local vets as causing a problem until now.

Pimelea simplex has been found near Carinda, and Pimelea trichostachya has been found near Girilambone.

Pimelea likes red soil. It is a common cause of poisoning in cattle in south west Qld and the syndrome in cattle is often called "St Georges Disease" because that's the location it is most commonly seen.

The clinical signs in cattle are:

  • fluid swellings (oedema) under the jaw and brisket
  • diarrhoea
  • weight loss
  • anaemia
  • reluctance to move
  • depression
  • standing away from the mob
  • severely affected animals may die.

affected animal near Girilambone 

The case at Carinda saw ill thrifty cows with diarrhoea and bottle jaw. The plant was found growing in abundance on bare soil after a prolonged dry period.

Interestingly, the case at Girilambone was quite different - ill thrift and bottle jaw was seen in weaners and cows. However there was plenty of green grass and the pimelea plant was found as a dry stalk amongst the pasture.

It is widely recognised that both the green plant and also the dry stalk can cause disease in stock. Most poisonings occur between August and January.

Pimelea simplex growing on bare drought affected soil near Carinda 

The green plant has a strong unpleasant odour so cattle will only eat it if there is no other available feed. The dried plant can be eaten inadvertently in pasture as it has no odour.

There is no treatment for Pimelea poisoning in stock, but removal from the plant usually sees animals recover.

If you suspect you have Pimelea, contact Local Land Services for a proper plant identification. We can even come and have a walk around your paddocks for a look.

If you would like more information, there is a great booklet available online Understanding Pimelea Poisoning of Cattle.