Home' Smart Farmer : October 2010 Contents October 2010
By ROSS WALLER
Livestock Production Consultant
WE all thought it would come, and it
has. Three little words pop into most
farming conversations at the moment --
wet, wet, wet.
It's been a great start to the season in
any language. The outlook is for con-
tinuing rains in spring. When the
weather warms a little, it will be a
great hay season. Not only does this
weather pattern encourage good pas-
ture growth, but conditions also
improve weed growth; negatively
impact on animal health and livestock
nutrition; and exacerbate foot or hoof
Hoof health is of primary importance
at the moment. Making sure stock
don't stand in water for prolonged
periods is obvious and vital. Dry matter
intake and correcting energy shortfalls
are also important, as is elevating
immune response and mineral nutri-
tion. Zinc and copper levels in the diet
should be appraised and adjusted -
often Biotin will also be worth adding
to the supplement.
Lameness in all stock is commercially
very important. All stock suffer to a
degree in cold, wet conditions and
lameness is always associated with pain.
Lameness and pain can:
• Reduce grazing times and patterns
• Cause a loss of milk production to
offspring and collection
• Lower reproductive performance
• Increase culling
• Negate profit by adding to the loss
of income and costs of treatments.
In 2003 the cost of each case of lame-
ness in the dairy industry was between
$200 and $300 per animal.
Soft hooves are more inclined to
develop fine cracks where bacteria can
enter and form abscesses. The interdigi-
tal skin between the claws becomes
soft, macerates and forms cracks during
long exposure to wet conditions. Mud
that coats the feet or lower legs will
often hide injuries from wire, sticks,
rocks etc and the only way to find the
injury is by washing and close inspec-
Strategies that can help avoid huge
problems start from the obvious -
attention to detail. Inspection on a reg-
ular basis is a pre-requisite. Always
allow the herd or flock to move at their
own pace and leave the dogs at home.
Stock need to work out an alternative
route, dogs only hinder this process.
Don't allow animals to pack tightly
during movement, this causes hoof and
leg injuries. Give access to higher
ground, and lay sawdust or woodchips
around dairy tracks that are damaged.
Lock off or fence high-risk or inundated
areas. Where practical, early examina-
tion lowers the impact on the hip pock-
et nerve and improves welfare. If you
need to foot bath, five per cent forma-
lin and 5pc copper sulphate can help
lower bacterial infection. Remember,
footbath chemicals can be dangerous,
so handle with care. Increase dry mat-
ter intake, feed hay.
Care, attention to detail and quality
treatment are win-win for business and
animal performance. Seek veterinary
advice where required, particularly if
you suspect infection, or if you need to
form a footbath plan. Little efforts at
the start often halt big problems devel-
oping. How does that song go again?
"From little things..."
• Need to know more?
Compass Feeds 08 8556 8332 or
Great rains bring hoof problems
HEEP producers are encouraged to be
vigilant for ovine brucellosis, following
the detection of the infectious bacterial
disease in rams across the State.
About 7.3 per cent of rams recently sur-
veyed in the South East tested positive to OB.
Biosecurity SA Animal Health staff conduct-
ed the survey at 45 properties, with approxi-
mately 94 from 1271 rams found with the
While OB is not a notifiable disease in SA,
the cost of the disease to producers through
lost production can be high.
OB causes infertility in sheep and can lead to
reduced ram fertility and occasionally, the
birth of weak lambs. It is a venereally trans-
mitted disease and can be transmitted between
rams in close contact.
The disease is of economic importance to
many sheep producers as brucellosis-infected
rams often mean a lower lambing percentage
and prolonged lambing period.
During the survey, OB was found to be more
prevalent in British breed ram flocks. Some
infected properties bought rams from clearing
sales and non-OB accredited sources, or were
given rams by fellow producers. None of the
owners of properties that tested positive were
aware the disease was present in their rams.
To help minimise the prevalence of OB,
sheep producers should:
• Buy rams from flocks that are part of
PIRSA's OB Accreditation Scheme, or isolate
rams and test them before allowing them to
mix with their flock. OB can usually be diag-
nosed by a simple blood test.
• OB-free accredited means all working
rams and sale rams must be tested by an
• OB-tested negative does not mean OB-free
accredited if only the sale rams were tested.
• All OB-free accredited producers have a
certificate indicating their freedom from dis-
• Keep rams in small groups - this means
that fewer rams will become infected should
infection enter the property. Ensure fences
between different groups are adequate.
• Keep rams separate - cripples or stray ewes
can act as sources of infection if run in con-
junction with rams.
• Any purchased ewes should be isolated for
six weeks (or until after all have lambed)
before mixing with other sheep on the proper-
Ovine brucellosis hits South East
Disease detected in SE
Stray sheep are a risk
Ewe hoggets from an ovine brucellosis-free accredited property are a low-risk purchase.
ty. Ewe hoggets from an OB accredited proper-
ty would be the lowest risk if ewes are to be
• Maintain ram-proof fences - escaped rams
have been known to visit many properties in a
• Keep your joining period tight. Rams
should be out at least eight weeks before the
first ewe will lamb. This is because ram lambs
(older than two months) can become infected
from the fluids and placenta of a transiently
infected ewe. By keeping the joining period
short, the lambing period is also short and the
risk of a ram lamb becoming infected from a
ewe is minimised.
• Palpate rams' testicles to check for lumps
before buying and before joining. The lumps
caused by OB are generally in the lower part of
the testicle. Note that not all testicular lumps
are caused by OB - trauma is a common cause.
• If producers notice unexplained decreases
in lambing percentages, longer lambing peri-
ods, or abnormal lumps in ram testicles they
should consult their veterinarian for advice.
South East sheep producers are putting their
livestock at risk of other sheep diseases with
33 per cent of producers reporting stray sheep
on their property within the past 12 months.
Biosecurity SA encourages producers to con-
tact their local Animal Health Officer or veteri-
narian if they have any unexplained disease
• Need to know more?
South East-based Animal Health Officer Adam
Price 08 87 351 300 or Gerard McGrath 08 87 629
82 Stewart Tce
(08) 8762 1955
0428 834 706
42 Church St
(08) 8737 2252
A complete veterinary practice
for all your animal needs
• Equine AI
• Equine Dentist
• Bull Semen
• Herd Disease
• Dairy Cattle
• Faecal Egg
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