ALERT: Vaccinations are imperative. Photo: Brandon Livesay
ALERT: Vaccinations are imperative. Photo: Brandon Livesay

Botulism breakout

THERE have been a number of cases of botulism diagnosed in cattle in the North Coast in recent months.

Botulism is a deadly disease that affects the nerves that control movement. The good news is that a vaccine is available (separate from a 5-in-1 or 7-in-1 vaccine).

Talk to your local LHPA veterinarian to find out if your herd is at risk and if you should be vaccinating.

The toxin that causes botulism is produced by a bacteria found in dead and decaying plant and animal matter. Animals fed silage or that chew bones as a result of phosphorous-deficient soils are at increased risk. Dead animals should be buried or removed from areas where cattle graze.

Affected cattle often drool and walk with a stiff gait before going down and dying because the muscles for breathing become paralysed.

No treatment or cure is available and confirmation of botulism is usually made by recognising the signs and exclusion of other disease.

Herd outbreaks of botulism are possible and can be financially devastating.

As cattle producers in the Clarence Valley and wider area head into winter, there are a few simple things that can help animals come out the other side in good order.

For those producers with grass, it might be a good time to buy some cattle. Ideally, source cattle from within the local area because these will have some immunity to local diseases and pests and should easily adapt to the local pasture. Purchased cattle should be vaccinated with 5-in-1 (or 7-in-1) as soon as possible.

Protect purchased cattle against deadly clostridial diseases by vaccinating them twice, four weeks apart.

Frosts occurring in winter will drastically reduce the quality of the local pastures. Feeding a protein supplement, such as whole cotton seed, is popular with many farmers in the region and can help cattle keep condition over winter.

Small amounts of grain or molasses can be an alternative to cottonseed for winter feeding in some situations.

Drenching is an important management tool at this time of the year. Calves can pick up worm eggs as soon as they start picking at grass. Conducting worm egg counts is a great way to know if drenching is required.

Pregnancy testing cows before winter and culling empty cows can lighten your property load over winter.

Your local LHPA veterinarian can advise on any matter regarding your herd's health.

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