Re­searchers hunt for pime­lea break­through

Ru­men fluid of other an­i­mals may help solve quandary with cat­tle

Balonne Beacon - - NEWS - Joshua Macree joshua.macree@west­ern­starnews.com

in south­west Queens­land have rea­son for cau­tious op­ti­mism as on­go­ing re­search into find­ing an ef­fec­tive cure for pime­lea poi­son­ing con­tin­ues to make progress.

The weed – which is poi­sonous to many breeds of cat­tle – has caused wide­spread dam­age to stock num­bers across the re­gion, trig­ger­ing a united call to ac­tion from pro­duc­ers which re­sulted in new re­search com­menc­ing last year.

The re­search, which is a com­bined ef­fort be­tween AgForce, the Uni­ver­sity of Queens­land and the Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture and Fisheries is aim­ing to de­velop a ru­men in­nocu­lum to over­come the toxic part of the pime­lea plant.

AgForce pol­icy of­fi­cer Marie Vitelli said ur­gent ac­tion was needed to pre­vent the num­bers of cat­tle suc­cumb­ing to poi­son­ing.

“We saw, dur­ing the 2015–17 pe­riod, a lot of pime­lea com­ing up and large num­bers of cat­tle af­fected show­ing signs of swelling – symp­to­matic of pime­lea (poi­son­ing) and also death,” she said.

“Pro­duc­ers were say­ing we need a so­lu­tion and so we net­worked with re­searchers who had worked on pime­lea in the past and they thought there was some hope of a drench that could be de­vel­oped.”

“We also wanted to look at ab­sorbency com­pounds.

“Some­times pro­duc­ers have pro­vided cat­tle with char­coal or ben­tonite – cer­tain com­pounds which might re­duce the swelling.”

Re­searchers have dis­cov­ered the toxin from pime­lea is ab­sorbed via the ru­men which trav­els through the small in­tes­tine be­fore reach­ing the artery be­tween the heart and the lungs, con­strict­ing the or­gans.

The fo­cus has now turned to­wards de­vel­op­ing a drench; a fluid of good bac­te­ria that can break down the toxin.

The pro­ject was given an added boost at the start of the year with Meat and Live­stock Aus­tralia pro­vid­ing an ad­di­tional $1.5mil­lion to be spent over a three-year term.

Ms Vitelli said the ad­di­tional funds al­lowed re­searchers to in­ves­ti­gate how other an­i­mals were im­mune to the ef­fects of pime­lea poi­son­ing.

“We have now col­lected ru­men fluid sam­ples from un­af­fected an­i­mals such as sheep, goats and kan­ga­roos and we want to know whether they have bac­te­ria that can break down the com­pound,” she said.

“MLA has now come on board with a three-year pro­ject so we can con­tinue that work.

“Re­searchers are still work­ing hard, they’re on progress – they haven’t found the sil­ver bul­let yet – but they’ve done the first lots of iso­la­tion and ad­vances to­wards find­ing a so­lu­tion.

“There is no guar­an­tee but we’ve got our fin­gers crossed they will find some­thing.”

Ms Vitelli said pro­duc­ers needed to act fast if they no­ticed cat­tle show­ing tel­lPRODUCERS

❝ They haven’t found the sil­ver bul­let yet — Marie Vitelli

tale symp­toms of poi­son­ing.

“Pro­duc­ers should have an un­der­stand­ing of their pas­tures and know they need to keep their an­i­mals away from where this plant grows.

“They’ve only got about a week from when they first start to see the symp­toms – the ruf­fled coat, scour­ing and di­ar­rhoea – to man­age those cat­tle and get them away from the area be­fore it ad­vances.”

PHOTO: JOSHUA MACREE

HOPE­FUL: AgForce pol­icy of­fi­cer Marie Vitelli is hope­ful re­searchers will find a break­through and solve the mys­tery of why pime­lea poi­son­ing is fatal to cat­tle.

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