Look for milk fever in sheep

Shepparton News - Country News - - LIVESTOCK -

At this time of year an out­break of milk fever or hypocal­caemia could be ex­pected and may only be­come ap­par­ent by the con­fronting sight of dead and dy­ing sheep, es­pe­cially af­ter feed­ing grain for a pro­longed pe­riod.

Hypocal­caemia, or milk fever, is a de­fi­ciency of cal­cium in the blood.

It usu­ally oc­curs in ma­ture, fat ewes dur­ing the last six weeks of preg­nancy or the first 10 days af­ter lamb­ing, although other classes of sheep may also be af­fected.

It of­ten fol­lows a stress­ful event, such as shear­ing, crutch­ing, trans­porta­tion, driv­ing, yard­ing, fast­ing or in­clement weather.

Milk fever usu­ally oc­curs on ei­ther rapidly grow­ing pas­ture, lush pas­ture, green ce­real crops, when feed­ing grain, or on pas­ture that has plants con­tain­ing ox­alate such as sor­rel and sour­sob.

An af­fected sheep will ini­tially stag­ger and have mus­cle tremors, af­ter which it will be­come weak, slip into a coma and die quite rapidly within four to six hours.

Dur­ing a post-mortem, there is lit­tle ev­i­dence to be seen in a sheep that has died from milk fever.

Cases of milk fever are of­ten con­fused, or mis­di­ag­nosed, with preg­nancy tox­aemia or twin lamb dis­ease.

Milk fever char­ac­ter­is­tics in­clude: a rapid on­set; af­fected sheep re­main alert; death oc­curs quickly; a large num­ber of cases may oc­cur at the one time; cases oc­cur on lush feed rather than lack of feed; and a good re­sponse to the ap­pro­pri­ate treat­ment.

Sheep af­fected with milk fever should be treated as a mat­ter of urgency with cal­cium/ mag­ne­sium so­lu­tion (of­ten known as 4-in-1) given un­der the skin. Cal­cium/mag­ne­sium so­lu­tion is read­ily avail­able from a vet­eri­nary prac­tice or ru­ral mer­chan­diser.

Cases may be pre­vented by adding a cal­cium sup­ple­ment if feed­ing grain, or by giv­ing dry roughage to sheep on lush feed. ■ For more in­for­ma­tion, con­tact your lo­cal vet­eri­nar­ian or Agri­cul­ture Vic­to­ria an­i­mal health staff, or if you are in NSW, con­tact your Lo­cal Land Ser­vices. — Dr Jeff Cave Agri­cul­ture Vic­to­ria district vet­eri­nary of­fi­cer

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.