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Livestock health and welfare following floods

There will be many things for producers to consider in the aftermath of the major flood event that hit the far North Coast last week.  The North Coast Local Land Services District Veterinarian team has provided advice for producers to consider in the management of their livestock health and welfare.

In the short term, there is the immediate work involved in repairing infrastructure such as fence-lines and laneways and ensuring that immediate animal welfare responsibilities such as provision of adequate food water and shelter are met.

A very important consideration is the increased potential for certain livestock diseases.

The major diseases for producers to consider include:

  • gastro-intestinal diseases such as yersinia (mud scours)
  • parasites such as barbers pole and small intestinal worms and liver fluke
  • lameness as the result of trauma or bacterial infections of the hoof
  • mastitis
  • clostridial infections, including blackleg and botulism

Things that producers can do to minimise the risk for these conditions include:

  • Minimising access to rotting animal carcasses
  • Minimising access to drinking water containing rotting organic matter
  • Consider moving stock from pasture with heavy soil contamination where possible

Management practices that can minimize the risk of livestock disease include:

  • drenching cattle for intestinal worms and liver fluke
  • ensuring that all 5-in-1 and 7-in-1 vaccines are up to date in cattle or that 3-in1 or 6-in-1 vaccines are up to date in sheep
  • the use of a botulism vaccine is highly recommended for all producers who are feeding cattle silage, grain or mixed rations

Dr Liz Bolin, North Coast Local Land Services District Veterinarian, also discussed lameness as a key issue, “Lameness is a major cause of problems for livestock in the short term following a major flood event.

“Prolonged moisture exposure softens the skin and hoof making bruising and penetration injuries more prevalent can make an animal’s skin more prone to infections.”

Higher bacterial loads present in wet muddy conditions and larger stones that are exposed when topsoil is washed from laneways and yards can contribute to the increased incidence of lameness seen in the period following a flood.

Repairing track surfaces, the use of footbaths and ensuring that feed rations have adequate fibre content can decrease the risk for feet issues.

Veterinary advice is recommended for all clinical cases of lameness and antibiotic administration may be warranted.

Outbreaks of mastitis in dairy herds are another potential herd health issue in these conditions.

Management practices to decrease the incidence of mastitis include:

  • calving in a drier paddock avoid flooded or muddy lane areas
  • cleaning teats prior to milking with running water and drying each individual cow with paper towel
  • daily strip testing to enable early detection and treatment of any clinical cases, early detection increases the chance of an effective cure and decreases the spread of infection to other cows
  • teat disinfection – post milk spraying or dipping

If you have any immediate animal disease concerns regarding your livestock or would like more information regarding livestock diseases following the floods, please contact either your private veterinarian or the North Coast Local Land Services District Veterinarian team.

Primary producers who are now starting to gain access to their paddocks are being encouraged to report flood damage, including stock and fodder losses, as well as damage to farms, fencing and other farm infrastructure.  Contact North Coast Local Land Services on 1300 795 299.

Media contact:

Dr Liz Bolin, District Veterinarian, Phone 0412 303 907

Photo captions:

Managing livestock in floods but also the ongoing wet conditions following floods poses significant challenges for producers.