Matamata vets are warning dairy farmers who use in- shed meal feeders to vaccinate their herds against salmonella after an epidemic has hit the region hard this season.
Farmers who have had salmonella – a bacteria often spread by birds and rodents contaminating meal – rip through their herds have encountered a severe loss of production and in some cases, death of their stock.
Dairy vet Arjan de Wilde from Landmark Vets said he had never seen an outbreak of salmonella as bad as this. At Landmark Vets alone they have had about 10 serious cases this year with up to a third of the herd affected sometimes and most other vets contacted by the Matamata Chronicle had similar statistics.
‘‘From my clinic all the people who have had salmonella have meal feeders in their sheds which birds get into, so I recommend farmers with them vaccinate their cows,’’ he said.
‘‘It is not expensive – you can’t afford not to vaccinate because the production loss is huge.
‘‘I know one farmer who lost 33 per cent of their daily milk in a day – it is massive losses when you think what the milk is worth this year with the payout.’’
Most vets generally charge less than $2 a cow for the vaccination depending on the services required.
The vaccination is done in two parts with an initial shot and a booster shot a month later.
But if the bug is caught, Tirau Veterinary Services dairy vet Regan Gerring said early detection of symptoms and isolation of the cattle was the key to saving as many as possible.
‘‘The first sign of salmonella is that a cow is off her milk and is scouring, often with a watery and distinctly unpleasant odour,’’ he said. ‘‘Symptoms from that can develop into a high temperature, sunken eyes and slow to move.’’
He added that with early treatment there was a pretty good survival rate by using antibiotics and electrolytes if the cows were dehydrated.
Mr Gerring said it was also vital that staff wear gloves and keep farm equipment clean to protect people from catching it.
‘‘It is a distressing time for the farmers seeing all their cows sick and pouring the milk down the drain but staff are just as important,’’ he said.
Tirau farmers Leigh and Kura Falleni, who also have in-shed meal feeders, had salmonella spread through their 540 cows at the end of calving this year.
‘‘Our hearts dropped too think what else might happen,’’ Mrs Falleni said after the first few cows died.
A lot more did happen. Not only did they have eight cows die but it cost nearly $10,000 for antibiotic treatments, their production lowered drastically and to top it off, Mrs Falleni caught salmonella from the herd and was bedridden for a couple of weeks.
Mr Falleni said when he first noticed a cow was off her milk and by the next day had deteriorated rapidly, he called the vet. ‘‘After about three days I had 14 cows sick,’’ he said. ‘‘After that we were pulling out 12 to 14 cows a night from the herd for antibiotic treatment. We had more than 70 cows sick by the time it started to slow down.’’
Herd treatment included a 50ml injection of Tetraguard and scour ban drench to prevent dehydration.
‘‘It was a very labour intensive and stressful time. It is not nice watching your cows get sick,’’ he said.
He said they had noticed a lot of geese this season and wondered if they played a part in his herd catching the bug which is often carried by birds.
Production is back to normal now and the couple are doing all they can to prevent a recurrence by vaccinating. They warn others to do the same. ‘‘It isn’t worth not vaccinating,’’ Mr Falleni said.
Epidemic: This season has not been easy for dairy farmers Kura and Leigh Falleni.