Welcome to March! And the cooler, hopefully, a little wetter Autumn months. Autumn can bring relief to the farm as we get some much needed rain along with the warm air and ground temperatures which make it the optimal time for grass growth. But Autumn is also a time that we need to be aware of some potential health issues that may affect your livestock.  A few common ailments in lifestyle animals are;

  • Facial eczema is a common ailment we see at this time of year affecting a wide range of animals eg. Sheep, cattle, alpacas. It is caused by a toxin (sporidesmin) produced by the spores of the fungus (Pithomyces chartarum) which grows in warm moist conditions in the base of the pasture / dead litter. The toxin causes permanent damage to the liver, leading to significant losses in production including poor growth, swollen ears & skin, & ultimately death. Once you see clinical symptoms, up to 70% of the flock or herd may have some liver damage so it is what we describe as a “tip of the iceberg” type disease. Currently, there is no cure so prevention best! We advise using Zinc bullets or zinc supplements to prevent facial eczema at this time of year and are happy to come and help you administer these.
  • In calves, the autumn months are a time where we see calves becoming susceptible to Cooperia. This is a type of intestinal worm that can have significant effects on the animal’s growth & wellbeing. It is important to have a good drench program in place to prevent this parasite. Combination drenches, which include levamisole as one of the active ingredients, are a good tool to use against Cooperia.
  • Fly strike can cause serious welfare issues in sheep. It tends to affect animals in the back end, especially those sheep with longer or “daggy” wool. The blowfly lays eggs on the coat, & maggots which hatch then start to eat into the skin of the animal. This essentially causes a burn like injury & potentially serious infection which can cause death if left untreated. Early signs of flystrike can be very difficult to observe. Sheep may appear restless, nibble at areas of the body, exhibit shade-seeking behaviour or stamp their feet. Sometimes affected sheep will not show any signs until a significant amount of maggots are present and have caused the animal to feel uncomfortable. Only at this stage will the wool fall out, the fleece becomes blackened or sores become visible. We have some good preventative treatments available & keeping the sheep shorn is also a key management strategy.

If you have any concerns about your livestock being affected by the above complications or other health issues the Tauranga Vet Services Large Animal Team is on call to help you and your animals.

Written by Kate Heller