Wet conditions bring new problems for producers
FARMERS have welcomed wetter than normal conditions after some ordinary rainfall in recent years, but apart from devastating floods, animal health problems can also be an issue.
The most recent wet spring/summer was 2010/11 and we can look back at some of the lessons learned during that season. Lame sheep and cattle: We have seen a lot more lameness in sheep this year, mainly due to wet and boggy conditions causing an increase in foot abscess, especially in heavier types of sheep.
Footrot is also being seen in areas where it hasn’t occurred for a number of years.
If sheep are lame, it is a good idea to confirm what is wrong with them - lame sheep are not productive and ongoing feet problems can usually be managed, or in the case of virulent footrot, eradicated.
This is not the season to ignore that nagging intermediate strain of footrot so get it diagnosed and get rid of it. Lumpy wool and fleece rot: In sheep, we are already seeing an increase in lumpy wool and fleece rot.
Lumpy wool or ‘dermo’ starts as an infection on the skin and the subsequent ooze causes the wool to matt together in lumps.
Young sheep are susceptible due to their open fleece and lumpy wool can make shearing impossible.
The disease can be self-limiting but if a large number of weaners are affected, and shearing is coming up, consider antibiotics to control the infection and allow the lumps to grow out from the skin level with natural wool growth.
Fleece rot is seen with prolonged wetting of the fleece down to the skin, and leads to downgrading of wool and increased susceptibility to body strike.
If sheep have a noticeable level of fleece rot then consider some fly strike prevention and see it as an opportunity to get rid of it, as susceptibility to fleece rot is a highly heritable characteristic. Parasites: In general, most of the parasites we deal with are worse in warm wet conditions.
Both fleece rot and lumpy wool make sheep susceptible to fly strike.
Remember with blow flies, you breed your own, so if you use preventive treatment before fly numbers build up it will save a lot of heartache later in the year.
You may wish to treat early if you are likely to be busy with other things like harvest or there is a fly product shortage around Christmas.
Mosquitoes and midges can also be a problem spreading unpleasant viral infections like Three Day Sickness and Akabane.
In very wet years, Three Day extends as far as Victoria, out of its normal range in northern New South Wales and Queensland.
Intestinal worms l ove t his t ype of weather, and once temperatures start to increase, barber’s pole worm will become an issue in many areas.
Monitor worm egg counts and look out for sheep with clinical signs of worm burdens.
Liver fluke will be a problem on farm, especially in areas that have experienced two wet summers as the fluke that built up last year will have multiplied. Excess feed: Excess feed is always better than not enough but be cautious with weaner sheep welfare and what appears to be ample feed on offer.
Young sheep don’t usually do well on long standing grass, especially if it starts to go rank.
Regular monitoring is the key to make sure they are maintaining or slowly gaining weight over summer.
With cattle, bloat can be an issue with clover dominant pastures. Clover and other legumes can cause frothy bloat and cattle are most susceptible in the morning or when they are first introduced to a pasture.
If you see cattle with mild bloat, gentle movement off the paddock on to hay with or without some bloat oil.
A severely bloated cow is an emergency requiring surgical intervention so call your vet straight away.
Bloat can be prevented with spraying, capsules or avoiding dangerous pastures.